Reason 2 to #LikeCanberra – The Arts
by The Editor
Over the last 98 days we have been developing a list of things we like about our little town. The philosophy is simple – it’s those moments of clarity when, doing something routine, you suddenly gain an awareness and an appreciation of your surrounds. We’ve attempted to refrain from commercial enterprises and individuals; rather, the list was intended as a loose examination of the elements that give our city its character.
Now, it’s time for Number 2.
Canberra is not well known for its edginess. Many outsiders consider this a pale town of grey suits and greyer people. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite – Canberra is very much alive thanks largely to a dynamic arts scene. Some days it is impossible to move far without coming across some form of expression within the city centre, due largely to Civic being flanked by three separate, though complimentary arts precincts: Gorman House, the ANU Arts precinct and New Acton.
Gorman House provides a cultural enclave with a high focus on dance. Wander through the heritage buildings of an evening or weekend and you’re likely to hear the sounds of feet pounding on wooden boards, musicians tuning their instruments or budding thespians shouting out their lines. There’s a certain relaxed calm that envelops the complex, adding a feeling that creativity is almost seeping out of the building’s walls.
The mood is somewhat different on the other side of Northbourne Avenue. Looking up Childers Street, the grand Art School stands sentinel over generations of university students. The feeling here is more of structure and study along with Llewellyn Hall and the School of Music. Nearby, the Street Theatre hosts all manner semi-professional theatrical works performed by local and touring companies. This precinct, along with the National Film and Sound Archives and the Drill Hall Gallery, form an area known as ANU Exchange – a fair title given its role in linking the academic with the city’s commercial centre.
By now you’ve probably heard enough from us about New Acton. It’s our favourite precinct in Canberra. Well, wait for next week when the now biannual Art, Not Apart festival kicks into full swing. As we’ve stated before, the element that separates New Acton from other cultural precinct in the commercial imperative that sits behind the enterprise. The motivation has led to a strong focus on public art and interactive spaces at street level. The architecture, heritage, art and landscape design make this one of the most complex and interesting areas in the city.
However, there are a legion of artists and designers out in the suburbs creating their own designs and artworks. A brilliant way to see these efforts is through the Handmade Market held quarterly at the National Convention Centre. Here, part time artisans gather their wares for sale to the general public. It’s a fantastic place to pick up knick-knacks and small gifts; and offers a revealing look at what happens after dark at kitchen benches across the city.
Some of these craftspeople take it all the way. One only has to look at the success of two local business – Bison and F!nk Design – to see the quality produced locally. These companies utilise very different materials to produce their homewares, however the share a common dedication to quality and sustainability that has gained them a nationwide reputation.
Blockbusters at the National Gallery of Australia. An oft-repeated image of the Illuminati on construction sites and on street signs. We have these and everything between in abundance. The city’s population is an educated one. The working brief of the capital is to maintain a record of our culture. Here in Canberra we are lucky to be surrounded by the best of the past and an ongoing creative spirit. Now, that is something to celebrate.