Marshall “considering” concert hall as part of new arts plan

South Australia’s first arts plan in almost two decades has raised hopes a long-awaited concert hall for Adelaide could become a reality, while funding changes have been flagged for arts organisations.

Sep 02, 2019, updated Sep 02, 2019
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra playing at the Town Hall. Photo: Shane Reid

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra playing at the Town Hall. Photo: Shane Reid

Launching the state’s Arts and Culture Plan at the APY Gallery in Adelaide this morning, Premier and Arts Minister Steven Marshall said the plan presented a “massive workload” for the State Government, with all 45 recommendations accepted fully or in-principle.

The five-year plan, devised under the leadership of former Australia Council for the Arts chief executive Tony Grybowski and strategic consultant Graeme Gherashe alongside a small team of arts professionals, is the first of its kind for South Australia since 2000.

The document sets out six broad goals to promote the role of arts and culture in the state and to drive advocacy and government investment in the sector.

It also outlines a vision to “champion” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture and to enhance arts infrastructure.

“The arts sector in South Australia is already very strong but it’s been operating without a plan for 20 years,” Marshall said this morning.

“I think we’ll be able to take arts to an even greater level of strength and prosperity for our audiences but most importantly for our artists.”

Of the 45 recommendations made by Grybowski and Gherashe is a call for the State Government to fund a business case to assess the viability of an acoustic concert hall in Adelaide.

According to the plan, the concert hall would serve as a home for the Adelaide Symphony and Adelaide Youth orchestras, and act as a hub for music education in the state.

Marshall today said the Government supported the call in-principle and would consider developing a business case.

“We’ll be able to advise how we are going to proceed with those business cases in the coming months,” Marshall said.

“Obviously we can’t just commit to something without seeing a full business case being done, but we are a UNESCO City of Music and we don’t have a concert hall in South Australia, so I was particularly pleased to see this as a key recommendation.”

ASO managing director Vince Ciccarello has long called for the State Government to invest in a concert hall, telling InDaily previously that the orchestra’s most regular performance venue, the Adelaide Town Hall, placed the ASO at a disadvantage as it had inadequate capacity and facilities.

Ciccarello told InDaily this morning that he was pleased “on face value” to learn that the Government was considering taking action.

“I think the Premier had always been favourably disposed to the idea of there being a need for an additional venue dedicated to the performance of music,” he said.

“What the response does it stops short of actually saying that they’re going to do it and how soon they’re going to do it.

“It’s a most positive move in the right direction certainly in a long, long time but I’m going to wait to hear more details before commenting further.”

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor also expressed interest in building a concert hall at the long-vacant old Le Cornu site at 88 O’Connell Street prior to last year’s council elections.

She announced at a public forum in October that a concert hall in North Adelaide would increase visitors to the area “exponentially” and would boost Adelaide’s standing as a UNESCO City of Music.

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Verschoor declined to comment to InDaily this morning, saying she was yet to view the arts plan.

Also flagged by Marshall this morning was his vision for South Australian arts organisations – particularly those that are small and medium in size – to move towards more “independent” funding models.

In March, InDaily reported that the Department for Premier and Cabinet chief executive Jim McDowell had warned of looming “big decisions” for Arts SA, the State Government agency in charge of arts funding.

“Once the Arts Plan is completed in June 2019, we may have some big decisions to make,” McDowell wrote in a post on the DPC website at the time.

“It’s my opinion that we’ve previously had an ad hoc approach and this is our opportunity to make more conscious and strategic choices.

“I feel that we may need to reconsider the activities we invest in and deliver fewer things better instead of spreading our resources too thinly.”

The arts plan sets out a vision for the Government to “drive a connected approach to advocacy and future government investment in arts and culture”, with “entrepreneurial models” flagged as a potential option.

“This report isn’t really talking about removing lines of funding,” Marshall said.

“But, we do need to look at embracing other forms of revenue so that people aren’t completely dependent upon the Government.

“I think we’ve seen a move in that direction in recent years with arts organisations becoming more financially independent, which is great.

“At every single opportunity, we should be looking to partner our arts organisations with other opportunities for sustainable sources of funding.”

InDaily contacted the Arts Industry Council of South Australia for comment.

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