by David Hill
Located on the banks of the Maribyrnong River near Bunbury St, the Footscray Community Arts Centre was established in 1974 by artists, unionists and other community activists and is on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nation. At the time of its creation, the Arts Centre was unique in Australia and a significant change for Melbourne’s west which was considered a cultural wasteland at the time because of its high amount of industry, some not particularly pleasant. The building’s use since then with galleries, performance spaces and a café is a long way removed from when it was built in 1872 as a residence and piggery!
The Arts Centre has contributed much to the cultural development of Melbourne’s west over the past 48 years with arts projects, workshops, festivals and other events. However, there is no doubt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit the arts community particularly hard with lots of events having to be cancelled or rescheduled and no work for affected staff or performers. To assist the arts community recover from the pandemic, in July 2021 the State Government announced its Creative State 2025 Strategy. This Strategy will provide $288 million over four years to 2025 and comprises 25 actions designed to provide increased job opportunities and career pathways, innovative products and experiences, industry stability and growth, equitable access to the creative industries, and promote the arts sector to new audiences and markets.
In recognition of the excellent work the Footscray Community Arts Centre undertakes it received a grant of over $1.5 million in January this year from the Creative State 2025 Strategy. The Arts Centre is among 114 creative organisations that will share over $85 million in funding, aimed at helping them to continue to provide art spaces, experiences and festivals for people to enjoy. Other organisations in the west to receive funding include Snuff Puppets, The Substation, Women’s Circus Limited, tilde and Na Djinang Circus.
The 2022/23 State Budget also provided a $17 million creative infrastructure package that will fund repairs, restoration and planning at some of the State’s best theatres and galleries, creating local jobs in the construction and trades sector. The funding will also assist upgrades for Theatre Works and the National Theatre in St Kilda, the Castlemaine Art Museum, Footscray Community Arts Centre and planning for the Tarneit Performing Arts Centre and the Dandenong Arts Precinct.
The funding provided by the State Government to the Footscray Community Arts Centre is acknowledgment of the Centre’s importance to Melbourne’s west and its contribution to the development of a thriving artistic and creative community.