In 2020, Metro Arts will celebrate 40 years of creating, developing and presenting new Australian work across performance and exhibitions with a major festival and a planned move to new premises.
Metro Arts’ new vision for the next 40 years was unveiled at a public meeting on Monday night and promises to be as bold, brave and daring as its artists and audiences.
As CEO and Creative Director Jo Thomas said: “Metro Arts is not just a building, it’s a dynamic multi-arts organisation and suite of creative services deserving of an inspiring, well-maintained, inclusive and accessible home.
“It’s time for a bold new direction and a new, modern, fit-for-purpose home will allow us to refocus our priorities on supporting more artists, developing more new work, invigorating Brisbane’s cultural scene and providing exceptional experiences to audiences.”
In recent years it has become clear that the 129-year-old building at 109 Edward Street, which the organisation has called home since 1980, is no longer the most suitable venue for the innovative arts organisation.
A limited scope to adapt the State Heritage-listed building to meet Metro Arts’ specialised requirements and a challenging financial situation within the sector did not support the future vision of Metro Arts, its artists and audiences, Ms Thomas said.
The Metro Arts Board has been approached by several prospective buyers and will work closely with property firm JLL to carefully consider each offer and secure Metro Arts’ future, including creating a vibrant new home.
Chair of the Board John Dunleavy said: “Metro Arts has a long history of re-inventing itself in response to the community’s needs. This is our next step.”
“We have spent many months carefully researching our options and working closely with the State Government and Brisbane City Council.”
Ms Thomas said Metro Arts planned to stay at 109 Edward Street until mid-2020.
“We are currently developing a major festival for February 2020 as a 40th birthday celebration, a joyous recognition of our past and a commitment to the future of Metro Arts,” she said. “The actual timing of our move will depend on our property negotiations and may vary from the mid-2020 current estimate.”
“Our discussions surrounding a new home for Metro Arts are in their early stages, but I can say options are under serious investigation and more information regarding these will be released in due course.”
The net proceeds from the sale of the building, after meeting authorised transition costs, combined with savings from building upkeep and maintenance, will be reinvested in accordance with Metro Arts’ Constitution.
Reinvestment priorities will focus on commissioning new and larger-scale art work, artist endowments, low and no-interest loans and creative developments to build the capacity of the entire arts sector.
Metro Arts also plans to establish a Public Ancillary Fund with the sale proceeds retained as a preserved principal from which interest and dividend payments on ethical investment strategies will fund arts projects and initiatives for decades into the future.
“Money spent on Heritage maintenance is money not spent on artists and art programs,” Ms Thomas said.
She reiterated the importance of maintaining Heritage in Brisbane’s built environment but championed a new custodian for the building allowing Metro Arts to better serve its core charter and vision: to develop the future of contemporary arts practice, now.
“We have appreciated calling this building home for the past 40 years, but the organisation’s needs have grown beyond what its walls can contain, and the building’s needs have grown beyond the organisation’s financial capacity,” Mr Dunleavy added.
“It is time for a more suitable custodian of the building.
“The nature of contemporary arts continues to shift and change in terms of scale, technology, interdisciplinary and multimedia requirements and we need to foster that digital connectivity and innovation.”
“Brisbane needs affordable, accessible, fit-for-purpose space to retain independent artists and creatives and inspire them to develop and premiere new work,” Ms Thomas said.
“Metro Arts’ vision for the future is to deliver that space and seize the opportunity to invest in and build Brisbane’s arts sector. This can be a true game-changer for Queensland artists and audiences.”
Helping shape this vision will be Metro Arts’ community of artists, audiences, donors, tenants and staff who are called upon to contribute ideas, suggestions and feedback and become involved and engaged in the decision-making process.
“We want to hear what you love about Metro Arts as well as what we can do better,” Ms Thomas said. “Metro Arts, like many small-to-medium organisations, balances on a tightrope to ensure good business and corporate governance principles.
“At the heart of this is a drive to best serve our community and deliver our mission to create brilliant contemporary art and we are asking our community to help us answer the question: ‘How can we best sustain ourselves as a business, to allow us to get on with our business of making art?’
The Board has worked hard to make 109 Edward Street a financially sustainable home for Metro Arts and its community for 40 years and its Directors have not taken the decision to relocate lightly.
“The time has come, and after extensive consideration, consultation, modelling and trial and error, this is our plan to move forward,” Mr Dunleavy said.
Metro Arts Board will continue to liaise with JLL regarding the sale of 109 Edward Street and will provide regular updates at www.metroarts.com.au/metro-on-the-move and www.facebook.com.au/metroartsbrisbane
Members of the public are invited to contribute their ideas via this survey or fill out a hardcopy survey at Metro Arts, 109 Edward Street, Brisbane before December 8, 2018.