David Pereira plays cello in the Fitters Workshop on Wentworth Avenue in Kingston. The venue, known for its amazing acoustics, was used for the Canberra International Music Festival, but is now to be fitted out as Megalo Print Studio s new place of business. SPECIAL 1
The Fitters Workshop at the Kingston Foreshore should be kept as a multi purpose arts venue and should not be converted into a print studio, an ACT Assembly inquiry has found.
A standing committee report recommends the government abandon its plans for a $3.9 million overhaul of the workshop for sole use by printmaker Megalo.
A majority of the committee found the site, which has been the subject of a bitter dispute in Canberra’s arts community, should be kept as multi use centre for music, art and performance.
But the government is unlikely to back down from its plans to redevelop the space for a print studio and has been called on by Megalo to reject the recommendations.
The report concluded that the workshop had acoustic qualities suitable for musical performance, particularly choral music, ‘‘which justify the re-examination of the decision to convert the building for use exclusively as a print studio and workshop’’.
The committee said the government should immediately look for a new site for Megalo and that funding set aside to convert the workshop be used to construct a purpose-built facility for the visual arts group.
The report said the government should also re-open its planning process for the Kingston Arts Precinct to incorporate the Fitters Workshop as a multi-purpose venue.
MLA Mary Porter was the one committee member to reject the recommendations and, in dissenting comments, wrote that ‘‘the process has been contaminated by the way various matters have been prosecuted in the media’’.
Arts Minister Joy Burch said today the report was not convincing and showed the site was only suitable for ‘‘a narrow range of music’’.
Ms Burch said the government’s long-standing plans were to find a permanent user that was held in both national and international regard and ‘‘we believe that user is Megalo’’.
‘‘We’ve got the report, we’ll consider the report’s recommendations and we’ll provide a response,’’ she said.
‘‘But on first reading, I don’t think there’s a very persuasive argument.’’
But ACT Greens arts spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur accused Ms Burch of driving divisions in Canberra’s arts community.
‘‘A multi-use arts venue will have benefits to a broader range of the community for concerts and exhibitions,’’ she said.
The ACT government promised the space to printmaker Megalo in 2009 and the $3.9million overhaul is planned to adapt the building to the needs of the visual arts group.
But Canberra's choral music community, including the Australian National University Choral Society, are contesting Megalo's move to the workshop, arguing the fit out would destroy the ''unique musical space'', and it should be set aside as both an exhibition space and concert hall.
NB: A poll was previously attached to this story, asking readers how they believe the venue should be used. Due to an unusually high number of responses which indicate the poll was distorted, it has been withdrawn from the site.