$140m arts showpiece now just a $25k refurb

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After years waiting for a new community arts centre to be built downtown, Queenstown Art Society is going it alone. 

President Barbara Glass tells Mountain Scene that the society’s council-owned base on the corner of Stanley and Ballarat Streets is in for a major revamp. 

By this time next year, a new Queenstown Arts Centre will be in place that’ll mean the presently separate Cloakroom Gallery and adjoining studios will be knocked together to create more space and a more welcoming, open-plan look. 

It’s long overdue, Glass says. 

“When I joined the society 17 years ago, the first meeting I attended was all about a flash new arts centre that was going to be constructed at the site,” she says. 

“We waited and waited – but it never materialised.” 

The same thing happened in 2007, when a proposed supersized Town Hall complex and arts hub to be called the Remarkables Centre was shelved when the budget ballooned in one estimate to about $140 million. 

“I recently asked the council what the chances are of a new place being built in the next few years and I was told it wasn’t looking good, so we’ve decided to press on and get things underway ourselves,” Glass says. 

Renovating the former high school buildings is expected to cost about $25,000. Some of this will come from Queenstown Art Society funds, the rest hopefully from various local charitable trusts, Glass explains. 

“We want to rebrand the corner as Queenstown Arts Centre and improve the visual and performing arts facilities that are already here. 

“We also want to encourage more local and other artists to come and use the place more regularly, whether that’s on a long or short-term basis.” 

Work on the project is expected to start around May 2011 and be finished by the start of next summer.