There was some much-needed good news for Sydney’s beleaguered arts scene over the weekend when it was announced that beloved Eveleigh-based venue Carriageworks had been rescued from voluntary administration.
In an eleventh-hour intervention, a group of 15 philanthropists including the Packer family, Michael Gonski, Kerr Neilson, Geoff Ainsworth and Johanna Featherstone successfully negotiated a multi-million dollar bailout package with the NSW government.
After months of distress sparked by Carriageworks becoming the first major arts institution in Australia to go into voluntary administration, the rescue package was roundly praised by several of the artistic leaders whose companies call the venue home.
Mikala Tai, director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art says her first thought was pure relief. “I’m excited that Sydney retains an organisation and venue that ensures experimental work remains in a ‘big house’. It was such great news to hear when the arts are taking such a battering at the moment.”
Jeff Khan, artistic director of Performance Space, says it was terrific and long-overdue news. “It means that Performance Space and our fellow resident companies can plan for the future with a bit more certainty. It’s reassuring to know that our home is safe, and that this irreplaceable hub for contemporary art and performance is entering a new phase, poised to make an even greater contribution to our cultural life at a time when our communities need it most.”
Arts minister Don Harwin announced the agreement, which couples five-year funding with a new 10-year lease agreement, on Friday afternoon. He noted it would offer some sense of security to the resident companies housed within in the former Eveleigh Railway Workshops, including the Sydney Chamber Opera, Moogahlin Performing Arts and Force Majeure.
The move allows Carriageworks CEO Blair French to begin the recovery process and ensure the cultural precinct can continue to host major events like the Sydney Writers’ Festival and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, as well as hopefully pave he way for the return of weekly highlight the Carriageworks Farmers Market on Saturdays.