Canberra Weekly stepped inside the Belconnen Arts Centre’s newly upgraded facility for a sneak preview eight days before the public is welcomed into their brand-new state of the art gallery spaces and black box theatre.
Come this Friday 21 August, guests will enter the new foyer greeted by the box office to the left, a bar to the right, and a funky, dynamic permanent lighting installation above head – itself a work of art.
Some familiar touches – like the lounges and a maquette of the Belconnen Owl sculpture – adorn the area and offer a sense of familiarity.
Passing through the foyer and stepping into the theatre for the first time, it’s hard not to be taken back by the sheer size of the space.
With a capacity of up to 400 seated patrons (a little over 80 under current restrictions), numerous stage and seating configurations can be organised to allow for a variety of audience experiences such as theatre in the round or more conventional layouts.
The theatre can be completely blacked out, or the curtains can be pulled back to on the enormous north-facing windows to unveil a picturesque view of Lake Ginninderra and bathe the space in natural light.
Belconnen Arts Centre marketing manager Skye Rutherford said the black box theatre is not just a highly versatile space, but also fills a gap in Canberra’s theatre offerings.
“The intention is to provide as much opportunity as possible … to have as many shows as possible that are created in Canberra but then go to other places,” she said.
“It also provides a space for the community. It could be for awards nights, conferences, weddings or something like that.”
The $15 million upgrade added not just the theatre, but also 160 square metres of exhibition space, a rehearsal room that can be used as a small performance venue, and a full back of house arm complete with dressing rooms, a green room, a loading dock and office space.
That additional exhibition space will give the Centre capacity to host a further 10 exhibitions per year as well as providing opportunities for multi-media art practices.
With everything but the final touches in place, the Centre’s new $15 million wing was completed at the beginning of the year; however, COVID-19 restrictions meant plans for the official opening had to be pushed back.
“We had to figure out how we’d stage an opening, when you have to really control the flow of people,” Ms Rutherford said.
Belconnen Arts Centre opened in August 2009, and the long-anticipated extension will open a week before the Centre’s 11th birthday.
“A lot of the staff have been here seven or eight years, so it’s been a big build-up for a lot of people,” shesaid.
The Centre will reopen on Friday 21 August with four new exhibitions, while the theatre’s first performance, L’entreprise du Risque, will take place on 9-11 September.
The first of three Belco Arts production for the remainder of 2020, L’Entreprise du Risque will feature an eclectic mix of acrobatics, clowning and unexpected surprises – pairing up world-class circus performers with emerging artists from Canberra’s Warehouse Circus company.
“It will be quite a visceral experience when you’re there in the space,” Ms Rutherford said.