Cessnock City Council investigates redesign of Cessnock Performing Arts Centre building to include art gallery and retail space

AIMING HIGH: Cessnock Performing Arts Centre's curator of performing and creative arts, Vicki Sienczuk looks over the plans for the proposed art gallery.

AIMING HIGH: Cessnock Performing Arts Centre's curator of performing and creative arts, Vicki Sienczuk looks over the plans for the proposed art gallery.

An art gallery and retail space could be established at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre under a plan to redesign the building into a 'cultural hub'.

Cessnock City Council has prepared a concept design for redevelopment of the centre, which opened in 2008.

The estimated cost of the project is $2 million, and council has secured about half of that amount in developer contributions.

Changes to the ground floor layout would include access enhancements, relocation of the box office and a new retail space.

The art gallery and a 'maker's space' would be created upstairs in the southern portion of the building, which was recently vacated by long-term tenant, the Samaritans Information and Neighbourhood Centre (now located at 124 Vincent Street).

The existing upstairs program room would be preserved for activities such as drama, dance and music.

CPAC's curator of performing and creative arts, Dr Vicki Sienczuk, said it's an exciting concept.

"The redesign of the CPAC building will allow council to develop a working 'cultural hub' that has the potential to offer an expanded range of arts-based experiences," she said.

"It is anticipated that the centre, in the future, will include exhibition-style events, intimate contemporary performances and a workshop area that will host a diverse range of activities.

"The CPAC box office will also relocate and sit among an eclectic range of quality arts and bric-a-brac.

"All in all, the project is incredibly exciting and has the potential to offer both locals and tourists a unique experience that keeps them coming back long into the future."

OPPORTUNITY: Cessnock City Council plans to establish an art gallery in the southern end of the Cessnock Performing Arts Centre building.

OPPORTUNITY: Cessnock City Council plans to establish an art gallery in the southern end of the Cessnock Performing Arts Centre building.

Replacement of aluminium composite panels, modifications to the loading dock and AV equipment and networking are also part of the scope of works.

The council began investigating opportunities to establish of the cultural hub as part of its 2017-18 operational plan, and set a target to complete the design as part of its 2020-21 operational plan (adopted in June this year).

The concept plan comes after Cessnock Regional Art Gallery closed in December 2019, with the gallery's committee citing a "lack of council support" as its reason for closing.

The volunteer-run gallery - which operated rent-free in a council-owned building - made the decision to close in August after a request for council to subsidise its building insurance and land rates ($8000) and pay for a full-time art director (approximately $85,000) was rejected.

At its July 15 meeting this year, council endorsed the sale of the building at 16 Vincent Street and the carpark at the rear, and that the residual funds from the sale be allocated to the establishment of the cultural hub at the performing arts centre.

Council has secured approximately $995,000 in developer contributions for the project, and has submitted the $200,000 Back Stage Access project for funding under the Australian Government's Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (from which council was granted $1.065 million last month).

It has also applied to the NSW Government's Resources for Regions program for $500,000 towards the cultural hub project, but this project was in addition to its allocated amount for that program.

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