Gorman House to become hub with heart
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Gorman House to become hub with heart

For a thriving arts centre, Gorman House looks pretty quiet from the outside.

But inside is a rabbit warren of diverse activity, humming away behind closed doors and blackened windows, in a shambolic series of studios, theatres, workshops and rehearsal spaces.

Historic Gorman House is to undergo a revamp.

Historic Gorman House is to undergo a revamp.Credit:Melissa Adams

The effect is less village and more shanty town, as writers and violin-makers work alongside glass-blowers and choreographers, with little sense of community.

And while the ACT government has identified the centre as one of several "arts hubs" throughout the city, many of the heritage-listed building's facilities have not been renovated since the 1980s.

ArtsACT has just completed a scoping study for a master plan that will see the Braddon centre transformed over the next few years, both inside and out, into an arts collective, rather than the current model of an ad hoc facility for artists and arts administrators who rent space when it becomes available.

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The study, carried out by Philip Leeson Architects and Susan Conroy Cultural Planner, includes an audit of the building's various spaces and facilities, as well as a "cultural planning exercise" for how to develop the centre in years to come.

The government has committed $1 million over the next two years to develop the centre, which was built in the 1920s as a hostel for government workers, and transformed into an arts centre in the 1980s.

ArtsACT director David Whitney said while the study was only the first step in what would be a several-staged process over the next few years, it had identified various areas that the centre could focus on changing from the outset, including improving visitor access and developing a more cohesive plan for the 30-odd tenants.

"It sounds very ambitious to have $1 million to spend at Gorman House, but the reality is that that probably just could give the whole place a coat of paint. So let's be a bit more strategic than that," he said.

He said the plan would involve not only rethinking how the building is used, but how the tenants interact with each other.

Gorman House director Joseph Falsone said the study had been an opportunity to look at the centre as a whole, and that even after 18 months as director, he was still discovering new things about the building's tenants.

"I think it's our job as a centre to foster that culture and to give it the opportunity to flourish," he said.

But he emphasised that there would, in the future, be more of an onus on the tenants themselves to engage with each other and the community.

"I think that one of the things that we've got an opportunity to do, within a centrally located facility with a heritage profile which is known and I think loved by many Canberrans, is to put a spotlight on arts activity for people who perhaps haven't approached the arts or may not be as familiar with the arts as some parts of the community," he said.