Tuesday’s Victorian State budget included a major win for creativity in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Footscray Community Arts – one of Australia’s longest running independent arts precincts – was the recipient of a landmark $8.7 million infrastructure investment from the Victorian Government.
Located on the Maribynong River, Footscray Community Arts was established by the local community in 1974, and is now recognised nationally as a leader in platforming historically marginalized communities through contemporary art experiences.
In 2019, Footscray Community Arts embarked on a precinct plan project with the support of Creative Victoria and Maribyrnong City Council to understand how creativity and community could be sustained in the context of rapid growth and gentrification in the west.
The result was two-fold: an ongoing commitment to platform artists traditionally underrepresented in the arts sector, and a series of recommendations to address Footscray Community Arts’ aging cultural infrastructure, which is currently struggling to meet demand from artists, audiences and community.
“This landmark investment recognises the significant role that local arts infrastructure plays in our creative industries economy and communities,” said Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson.
Tuesday’s investment announcement will enable the Stage 1 recommendations of the Precinct Plan to commence, including converting the precinct’s much-loved outdoor amphitheatre into an architecturally designed outdoor venue, which will facilitate quality, accessible outdoor experiences and honours the First Nations significance of the precinct.
“This is the biggest one-off investment into Footscray Community Arts ever – an important statement of support for arts in the West,” Says Robyn Gawenda, Executive Director of Footscray Community Arts.
“The cultural fabric of the western suburbs is built on community connection and creativity, it’s vital that crucial community infrastructure like Footscray Community Arts is championed, invested in and supported as the west booms.”
Local member Katie Hall MP enthusiastically announced the landmark investment on social media on Tuesday, “I just called Footscray Community Arts and congratulated them on being the centrepiece of our Budget in the inner west. $8.7 million for a spectacular upgrade, cementing Footscray as one of Victoria’s great creative precincts,” she said.
Footscray’s population is expected to grow by 179% in the next 25 years. Tuesday’s investment in Footscray Community Arts complements other cash flowing into the west, including the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel Project, the $13 billion airport rail link and the $1.5 billion new Footscray Hospital. Most recently in 2021, Footscray was named a Priority Precinct by the state government in recognition of its position as the ‘cultural heart of the West’.
Stage 2 of the Precinct Plan’s will seek to address the indoor facilities at Footscray Community Arts to ensure communities have access to high-quality, vibrant and culturally safe spaces.
“Our advocacy for investment in Melbourne’s western suburbs isn’t over,” says Daniel Santangeli, Artistic Director of Footscray Community Arts. “We will be able to leverage Tuesday’s announcement to inspire further investment in Footscray Community Arts and the other incredible art organisations in the west.”
For more information about Footscray Community Arts’ Precinct Plan, visit: www.footscrayarts.com for details.
Image: Audience enjoying a performance on the lawn at Footscray Community Arts (supplied)