Published: 25 Jan 2022
Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.
For Wadawarrung artist Stephanie Skinner, immersion in art and culture has been a lifelong affair.
The multitalented Ms Skinner is not only a successful digital artist, illustrator and scriptwriter, she is also a language officer for the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.
“My role works towards the revival and revitalisation of language, and really normalising and promoting the use of language with our Wadawurrung People and within the wider Geelong landscape,” she said.
In Geelong, which sits on the land of the Wadawurrung People, Stephanie sees a city filled to the brim with culture, history, language, and potential.
“You see it everywhere, even in the name Geelong, which is derived from ‘Djilang,’ meaning ‘the tongue of the coast,” she explained.
Recognising the significance of the thriving arts and culture scene to the Geelong region, the Victorian Government recently unveiled design plans for the $140 million Geelong Arts Centre Little Malop Street Redevelopment. The project is being delivered in partnership withGeelong Arts Centre, Creative Victoria, Development Victoria and property group 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 plaza on Little Malop Street, and new box office space alongside back-of-house and administration areas.
Designed by ARM Architecture with theatre consultants Charcoalblue and acoustician Hanson Associates, the Little Malop Street Redevelopment will reflect elements of Geelong’s history, with Wadawurrung culture and a connection to Country built into the very fabric of the centre and expressed through architecture, imagery and soundscapes.
Amplifying the voices of the local First Nations community, ARM worked closely with Wadawurrung artist Kait James, and local First Nations artists Tarryn Love, Gerard Black and Mick Ryan to showcase First Nations stories through the campus.
Stephanie sat on the artist selection committee that chose the four First Nations artists whose major artworks will feature inside and outside the building. She remains enthusiastic that the redeveloped arts centre will become a place of cultural and artistic significance for the region.
“There’s a lot of culture and spirituality involved in the Geelong Arts Centre. You can see throughout that there’s that community spirit, that Wadawurrung Spirit, to it,” she said.
Creating a space of cultural significance was also at the forefront of Joel McGuiness’ mind throughout the design process. Mr McGuinness, who is the CEO and Creative Director of the Geelong Arts Centre, believes that, given the right opportunities, artists can be drivers of societal change.
“The role of an artist is more than putting shows on a stage to entertain people. It’s about provoking critical thinking and being change-makers, questioning the status quo and imagining new ways the world could be,” he said.
Mr McGuinness and Ms Skinner are confident that the redevelopment will be a game changer for arts and culture in the Geelong region.
“For us Wadawurrung Mob, for my Mob, I’m hoping that we get to embrace and share these stories and feel pride in the place where the arts centre is standing. Regarding the wider Geelong community, I think it’s going to have an astonishing impact,” Stephanie said.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result.”
“What we ended up with is extraordinary. The community in the Geelong region absolutely deserves to have the largest regional arts centre in Australia, and that’s what they’re going to get,” added Mr McGuinness.
The Geelong Arts Centre Little Malop Street Redevelopment, funded by the Victorian Government, is due for completion in 2023.