A new home for the arts on Phillip Island

Published: 21 Apr 2022

A man walking past a wall covered in paintings

Sandra Peeters will tell you that the arts have always been in her blood.

“My family was always taking me to art galleries, to cinemas and to the theatre. I remember during the early days of the Melbourne Film Festival being smuggled in under my mother’s coat to see the wonderful European films,” she said.

And when Sandra arrived at the University of Melbourne, and discovered that the artists’ society was no longer meeting, it wasn’t long before she and a group of friends founded a new one.

“I think that’s also in my blood, to get organisations going where there’s a gap,” she explained.

It’s experience she has put to good use on Phillip Island, where she has advocated for the creation of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre.

After moving to the island 11 years ago, Sandra noticed that local contemporary artists were relying on the back room of a local café to exhibit their work.

Seeing a gap that needed filling, Sandra founded the Phillip Island Contemporary Exhibition Space Inc. (PICES).

The group’s main goal has been to secure a high standard, contemporary exhibition space in Cowes.

That goal is now on the horizon, with construction of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre underway.

Supported by $13.3 million from the Victorian Government, the centre will establish a new 250-seat theatre, library, gallery, café and cinema, all under one roof.

Sandra couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s going to be fabulous,” she said.

“There’s so much artistic potential in Phillip Island and this building is going to help people realise that potential.

This will be a centre that inspires people, a centre that drives collaboration between different arts groups and brings people together,” said Sandra.

The talent of the community is already on display, with PICES submitting works from 28 local and regional artists to decorate the hoarding around the construction site.

The first 14 art works are now on display, with the exhibit set to switch over later in the year.

“It’s been terrific. People are stopping to appreciate the works as they pass the site,” said Sandra.

“It’s a wonderful taste of what’s to come.”

The Victorian Government is supporting the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre through a subsidised low-interest loan of $10 million from the Community Infrastructure Loans Scheme, $2.5 million from the Growing Suburbs Fund and $800,000 from the Living Libraries Infrastructure Program.

The project is being delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Government and Bass Coast Shire, with the building set to open in early 2023.

Page last updated 21 Jun 2022
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