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NSW Government commits more funds for Walsh Bay arts precinct transformation

NSW Government commits more funds for Walsh Bay arts precinct transformation
April 5, 2017

The transformation of Sydney’s Walsh Bay into a world-class cultural arts precinct has received a major boost with an additional allocation of $68 million in NSW Government funding.

The funding, which includes an extra $30 million for the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) Wharf Renewal Project, comes on top of the $139 million committed to the precinct in 2015 through the NSW Government’s Cultural Infrastructure Program.

Announcing the commitment, NSW Minister for Arts Don Harwin stated “arts is so important to this state and that is why our Government is investing in key cultural infrastructure projects to ensure generations to come can enjoy and appreciate art and culture to the fullest.

“We believe Walsh Bay will become a renowned cultural precinct in Asia Pacific and this investment reflects that. The precinct will host up to two million people every year and the extra funding will give them better access to a special experience.”

Minister Harwin said the new funding will help make the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct a vibrant and world class hub for the performing arts, adding “a unified build of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct with the Sydney Theatre Company will provide a range of cultural benefits to the people of NSW.

“It will attract visitors and boost the economy, while preserving the wharfs’ iconic heritage. Further, it gives the STC facilities and a home it deserves as one of the world’s most highly-rated and professional theatre companies.”

The additional precinct funding will go towards ensuring that leading major performing arts companies including the STC, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bangarra Dance Theatre, the Sydney Dance Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company have accommodation, rehearsal and performance spaces that fittingly match their international status.

For the STC, the funding will meet almost half of the cost of its $65 million Wharf Renewal Project, its first significant upgrade in 30 years.

To meet the balance, the Company has already secured $28.1 million in philanthropic funding from sources including the Crown Resorts Foundation, the Packer Family Foundation, Frances Allen and Ian Narev, the Neilson Foundation, and the Anita Luca Belgiorno Nettis Foundation.

STC’s renovations will embrace the original vision of the company’s first artistic director, Richard Wherrett, who wanted the two theatres in the venue - Wharf 1 and Wharf 2 - to be built with flexible seating arrangements, allowing for performances in-the-round and in a variety of configurations. Those plans were simplified when the Wharf theatres were built in the mid-1980s due to financial constraints.

Under the new design, the two theatre spaces will be transformed and separated by a retractable door, allowing them to be used as a single larger performance space for certain events.

Rehearsal spaces will also be renovated and soundproofed, alongside upgrades to artist dressing rooms. The workshop space will have its ceiling raised to allow the company to build larger sets while the admin offices will be “updated to reflect changes in current business practice.”

Visitors will also be able to access the Wharf through two new entrances, including one halfway down the pier and one at the bar.

To accommodate the renovations, the entire Wharf will be closed throughout 2018, including both theatres, the workshop, the Bar at the End of the Wharf, and the Company’s administration offices.

The company will still have use of its two other regular venues - the Roslyn Packer Theatre and the Drama Theatre at Sydney Opera House - but will be unable to use its two smaller spaces for its 2018 season.

The STC says it is “looking into other venue possibilities”, and further information will be available when the season is launched in September.

Concluding, Minister Harwin explained “we are now even better equipped to create an activated arts and cultural precinct that fully supports and nurtures home-grown talent and creativity. This will be an inclusive and accessible destination for everyone to enjoy, just around the corner from Circular Quay, the Rocks and Barangaroo.”

The NSW Government’s contribution to the project will be managed by Infrastructure NSW and allocated to upgrading building fabric and structure.

Images: Architect renditions of STC’s Wharf Renewal Project

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22nd March 2016 - NSW GOVERNMENT APPOINTS ARCHITECT FOR WALSH BAY ARTS PRECINCT 

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