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Wheel comes full circle to deliver arts powerhouse back to where it all began


After cutting her teeth as a producer on the first iteration of the Brisbane Festival in 1996, Kate Gould returns to Brisbane after an absence of almost two decades to become the Brisbane Powerhouse’s new Chief Executive and Artistic Director.

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Gould has spent nearly two decades working within the arts on projects such as the Adelaide Festival, the Chair of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and the co-creator behind one of Australia’s most innovative multi-disciplinary arts festivals, Tasmania’s Dark Mofo.

Her appointment is the beginning of a new vision for the Brisbane Powerhouse.

It will also create a full circle moment bringing Gould’s expertise back to where it all began.

“I know Brisbane from my past and my family history but also feel like I am reacquainting myself with Brisbane, like I am meeting it for the first time,” Gould told InQueensland.

“I’m reacquainting myself with a new Brisbane, one I’m not used to. I’m excited by the opportunities that Brisbane has to offer, with its own arts and culture ecosystem.”

Gould said Brisbane’s arts and culture scene had transformed since her initial role as producer on the first year of the Brisbane Festival.

“At the time, we were developing a whole new idea for Brisbane in terms of a new arts festival. It was a great time to be there, it was very exciting. We had a blank sheet of paper with which to make a new festival, I really had some incredible experiences that have been influential to my subsequent career,” said Gould.

“Brisbane in present day is a totally unique ecosystem, which I need to unpick and unpack. New artists have emerged and trends have developed over the last 17 years with new makers, producers, and artists who I’ve got to learn about. I don’t want to replicate other cities.

“You’re not going to see a repetition of what you saw at Dark Mofo but there are lots of things I have learned from working on these really innovative events that I can bring to bear in how I commission work or how we develop new projects for the Powerhouse,” said Gould.

Gould said the pull towards Brisbane was the potential of the arts landscape but also the excitement from the combined role of Chief Executive and Artistic Director offered by Brisbane Powerhouse.

“Brisbane is very exciting artistically which is why I wanted to come back. That was a no brainer.

“What the board has done by combining the roles of CEO and artistic director is quite a visionary thing to do.

“It means that there’s great opportunity to create big impact projects that can influence the cultural landscape of Brisbane,” said Gould.

The fledgling nature of Brisbane’s art scene two decades ago has now begun to hit its stride, offering the potential for exciting works to be commissioned by local artists across all disciplines.

“There was an emerging arts scene as well as some areas that were artistically very well developed. Events like the Brisbane Festival gave the opportunity to commission multidisciplinary work, because previously the challenge was that works were siloed into specific art forms like ballet or symphony concerts.

“We didn’t have that sort of local commissioning to the level that you now see in the scene. When a lot of work is being commissioned, the fruits of that development are seen many years later and the emergence of these new artists is then seen. The investment early on, especially working on Brisbane festival, paid dividends later in the arts scene.”

Gould said it is still early stages, as her appointment was finalised last week. The next vital steps are to consult the community, the history, and sense of place of Brisbane Powerhouse with a guiding principle of being arts-led.

“The history of Brisbane Powerhouse, with events like Tranceplant, has all of the essential elements we are interested in about the exploration of art and ideas.

“I do want to consult with the First Nations community as well to understand their views of the land and culture in that place. My principles are about being arts-led, but I also want to be First Nations’ guided.

“I want to take the events that we do right out into New Farm Park and into that whole peninsula. I really want to broaden that footprint so that art is reaching out into that whole community.”

Gould said her experiences in creating the lauded Dark Mofo have led to a fascination with unexplored territories and terrains as spaces to exhibit art and performances.

“It’s how we infiltrate the environment around us with art is of interest to me.

“I’m looking at doing that in a respectful way. It’s not about a takeover. It truly is about finding ways to infiltrate and enhance the surrounding environment.

“Brisbane Powerhouse sits on one of the most spectacular pieces of land that we could hope for in the world and I’m keen to immerse myself into that place to understand where the exciting opportunities exist.”

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