Bright future for contemporary art centre

CLOSED: CoCA in Gloucester St has yet to reopen after the February quakes.
CLOSED: CoCA in Gloucester St has yet to reopen after the February quakes.

The Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) will reopen in June next year after securing funding to repair the earthquake-damaged building.

The modernist building in Gloucester St has been closed since the February 2011 earthquakes. CoCA faced a $360,000 funding shortfall to strengthen and restore the building, but has since raised the money through grants and donations.

The gallery is insured, but trustees needed about $360,000 to bring the building from 34 per cent of the building code to 67 per cent so it can be open to the public.

Architect Miles Warren made a donation and the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust granted $140,000 for the gallery, as well as other donations and grants.

CoCA trustee Helen Calder said the funding meant it would not need to sell the gallery's collection of about 180 artworks, which is worth about $100,000, or deplete reserves of about $300,000. The trust relies on the interest from the reserves to cover running costs.

Repair and strengthening work is under way on the 1968 modernist gallery, with new concrete foundations and a new roof being installed. A 1970s extension at the back of the building, which separated in the February quake and smashed against the original structure, will be demolished this weekend and replaced.

The gallery hopes to lease the ground floor to a cafe or restaurant to cover operating costs.

Calder said the relaunch in June next year was a chance for the gallery to "reboot" with a new director and a new direction. A new director will be appointed once they find a tenant for the ground floor.

The gallery will no longer be a dealer gallery and will instead host four contemporary "high quality" shows a year.

"Now the building work is underway and we have secured the funding, we are now focusing on our strategy.

Calder credited an article in The Press newspaper for bringing the gallery's plight to the attention of funding bodies.

She received a call from the earthquake appeal trust inviting them to apply for funding after the article in November. "We were so focused on our building that we went under the radar. We went unnoticed until that article and that revived people's memories and interest in the gallery."

The Press