Reflections on moving06.05.2015
On 1 January, 1992, the Arts Council of NSW signed a lease with the state government for premises on Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. Twenty two years and four months later, and now known as Regional Arts NSW, we have signed a new lease with the state government and moved to The Arts Exchange at 10 Hickson Road, The Rocks.
I suspect that when the Arts Council moved to The Wharf all those years ago, no-one could have foreseen the changes that would occur in the next two decades. From its original remit of taking ‘culture to the bush’ with extensive touring programs of theatre, dance, visual arts combined with workshops of all varieties, the landmark report of Justin McDonnell in 1998 led to a completely new way of supporting arts and cultural activity in regional NSW. Through a decentralised model of independent regional arts boards servicing a group of co-located local government areas, there was a new remit to encourage and support arts and cultural development programs that responded to local aspirations.
This model is still unique to NSW and McDonnell’s observation in his report that ‘the rapidly growing coastal strip, the number of medium sized inland cities and the far flung rural hinterland present, in turn, a challenge in diversity for which no single response will ever be adequate nor sufficiently comprehensive’ still holds true today. Our most recent business plan clearly articulates our organisation’s role as a service organisation committed to supporting the ‘on the ground’ work undertaken by the 14 Regional Arts Boards across the state to meet this continuing ‘challenge in diversity’.
When the Arts Council moved into the then unconsidered concept of a cultural precinct at Walsh Bay, redevelopment of this area had not commenced. The old store shed that was to be our home for the next two decades remained as it was when the maritime workers moved out. The staff endured years of construction noise and debris as the new apartments, shops and offices were built on the old wharves and foreshores of the former centre of early 20th century maritime operations. Many tales abound throughout the network of the legendary annual Christmas party hosted on the harbourfront apron in front of the office where RADOs, board members and many other friends enjoyed the views and hospitality of the Arts Council. Alas, those days have passed as budgets were tightened and regulations imposed.
So now we have bid farewell to our leaky old offices and harbour front location and moved into a modern open plan office space in the beautifully refurbished Arts Exchange. Same street but the other side of the Bridge in The Rocks. Co-located with festivals and other service organisations, we are learning to connect in the lift rather than waiting for coffee in the Sydney Dance Lounge.
No longer will the dust covered four wheel drives branded Outback Arts, Arts OutWest and so on – a sure sign that the RADOs were meeting in Sydney be parked in front of the old office.
So … the welcome mat is still out for all our friends to visit in our new space. We can’t offer you a harbourfront car park, but it’s a much shorter walk from Circular Quay. Our offices might be a bit flash – there is a security buzzer and video intercom – but our people are the same. We look forward to seeing you.
Elizabeth Rogers, CEO