Community pride at the heart of Australia’s biggest regional arts centre

Published: 24 Jan 2022

Geelong Arts Centre Little Malop Street Redevelopment Exterior View from Johnstone Park

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

Known for its diverse cultural history and thriving creative scene, Geelong will soon be home to the largest regional arts centre in Australia.

The $140 million Little Malop Street Redevelopment is set to transform the Geelong Arts Centre and provide a significant boost to the creative, tourism and service industries across the Geelong region.

Funded by the Victorian Government and delivered in partnership with Geelong Arts Centre, Creative Victoria, Development Victoria, ARM Architecture and Lendlease, the redevelopment will deliver a 500-seat flexible theatre that can expand into an 800-person ‘live gig’ space as well as a 250-seat hybrid theatre connected to a new Little Malop Street Plaza, an upgraded box office space and new back-of-house and administration areas.

The redevelopment will allow the centre to host local, national and international performances, and will deliver 600 construction jobs and 300 ongoing tourism and service jobs in a major boost to the local economy.

Building a sense of place

Joel McGuinness, Geelong Arts Centre CEO and Creative Director, has engaged with local stakeholders and community groups to ensure that the new centre delivers not only state-of-the-art facilities, but also a welcoming environment that delivers a strong sense of place for the community.

“It is vital that the community sees themselves reflected on our stages, in our foyers, in our spaces and in our teams,” he says.

The sense of place will be created in the unique design language of the building itself, which sits on and celebrates the lands of the Wadawurrung People. The designs will feature work by Traditional Owner and First Nations artists throughout the interior and across the exterior of the new building.

Stephanie Skinner, a Language Officer for the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation who sat on the artist selection committee, is confident the result will be something the community can be proud of.

“I really believe the centre will have an astonishing impact. Geelong is a very diverse and creative community, and this is going to boost the entire area.”

Geelong Arts Centre Little Malop Street Redevelopment Interior Foyer

Setting the standard for design collaboration

Recognising the many benefits that can be achieved through partnerships, the Geelong Arts Centre Little Malop Street Redevelopment is a collaborative design success story.

With personal and cultural respect at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the team elected to appoint a Cultural Respect Mentor and establish cultural protocols to guide the collaboration process.

“Everyone involved in communications and co-designing this project was from such a diverse background, so those protocols brought that safety and respect along with it and made the process amazing,” Skinner says.

For Joel McGuinness, the co-design process has been a career highlight.

“What we will end up with is truly unique, and this has been a case study for how we can really work together as a community and create something beautiful” he says.

“Geelong’s a UNESCO International City of Design, and the sense of optimism, the sense of pride in this place, and the sense that something remarkable is happening here, is real. The community absolutely deserves to have the largest regional arts centre in Australia, and that’s what they’re going to get.”

The Geelong Arts Centre Little Malop Street Redevelopment is due for completion in 2023.

Page last updated 24 Jun 2022
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