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End in sight: The Queenstown Arts Centre will meet a wrecking ball in the next six months, to create either carparks or another laydown area

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown Art Society’s upset its thriving community arts centre’s to be demolished by the council in six months’ time.

The downtown centre, which has operated with artists’ galleries and studios for about 20 years, was ultimately going to be pulled down for a new civic and cultural centre.

But till then council wants the space for a temporary carpark or a laydown construction area similar to what’s across the road.

Art society president Diane Hart says the wooden Stanley Street building — originally part
of a school precinct — ‘‘has got a lot of charm’’.

‘‘It’s a character building, it sort of goes with a community arts centre.’’

Council community services boss Thunes Cloete says it’s keen to help the society relocate — and points out it’s part-funding the new Te Atamira arts and culture facility at Frankton’s Remarkables Park shopping centre.

Hart, however, says while Te Atamira’s ‘‘a wonderful new venue’’, she doesn’t see it as a replacement for theirs.

Apart from vying with countless other organisations to use the space, ‘‘we would stop being what we are, with a heart and soul and infrastructure’’.

‘‘We would just be applying to use their spaces, while they manage everything.

‘‘We’re not able to be picked up, we would be separated like a finger and an arm.’’

Importantly, she believes the centre needs to be in the CBD to attract visitors who buy art and keep the centre’s head above water.

Currently, about 12 artists use studio space in the centre — ‘‘it’s a nurturing environment’’, Hart says — while there are also regular exhibitions, art classes and even poetry readings.

Artist Spike Wademan, who co-founded the centre with his artist wife Sue, and still teaches and paints there, says ‘‘the biggest attraction to that building when I first saw it was its location — and without that location, and passing trade, it’s pointless’’.

‘‘I’ve been out to Remarkables Park twice, and one of the things I wanted to record was how many people there were in the vicinity.

‘‘I saw two human beings walking down the road, and that was it.’’

He adds the council only about two years ago replaced the arts centre’s roof and earthquake-proofed it.

The centre’s still thriving, he says, ‘‘then all of a sudden somebody’s pulled the tea towel out from underneath us’’.

Hart, meanwhile, is asking why they can’t stay till council and Ngai Tahu start building their Project Manawa cultural/civic hub.

‘‘Can they find an alternative carparking space?’’

Alternatively, she’s asking if they can find somewhere else in the CBD, or even move the current building, which she accepts mightn’t be practical.

‘‘The key thing we want to do is preserve the heart and soul of what the Queenstown Arts Centre is and has been for more than 20 years.’’

She’s also keen to see if any philanthropist would like to support their cause — ‘‘we know
there’s a lot out there who support the arts’’.

Council’s Cloete says the art society needs to understand ‘‘when a lease comes to an end, it
doesn’t mean it will just be renewed’’.

‘‘We have a timetable and we need to move on.’’

Council, however, will still go through a consultation process.

‘‘We’ve been talking to them for, I would say, four months, so they’re well aware of what’s happening.’’

And he stresses council’s willing to work with the society to find an alternative site, saying he’s not averse to another CBD location.

scoop@scene.co.nz