The Christchurch Arts Centre - home is where the art is
When was the last time you wandered through the Christchurch Arts Centre?
Odds on, it was before February 2011.
While the city has been obsessed with glass and chrome and a broken cathedral, the real heart of the city has been quietly beating.
The Christchurch Arts Centre this month welcomed four new tenants to the Boys' High building. Shopology, a retail cooperative, combines Workology, a shared workspace for professionals who work alone but don't want to work in isolation, and Popology, an ever-changing 'stall' of smaller artists and crafters just dipping their toes into the market.
Frances Nation, Pepa Stationery, and Rollickin' Gelato also take up home in the building, joining old favourite The Fudge Cottage, Soul Jewellery, Absolution, iSite and the Department of Conservation, Min Kim fine art gallery and Pūmanawa, the community exhibition space that is leased out on a weekly basis.
Christchurch trust board chairwoman Felicity Price said the goal of becoming a home for creative entrepreneurs was coming to life.
"Restoration of more than half the Arts Centre's beautiful buildings can now be enjoyed by the thousands of people who are coming in to enjoy events, markets and just to browse. It's incredibly exciting to see all available spaces fully tenanted with talented, independent retailers, galleries, artisan food outlets and education spaces."
The Registry, Gymnasium, Library, Common Room, Clock Tower, Rutherfords Den and Chemistry buildings are also leased and open, making more than half the site now open to the public. However, there is still a funding shortfall.
"A lot of people don't realise the Arts Centre is an independent charity that relies on fundraising, grants and partnerships to pay for the restoration and ongoing maintenance," Price said.
Communications manager Caroline Fenton said there was still a $32 million shortfall, upon which the largest building on site – Engineering – was reliant upon. Also waiting on funding is the old Dux de Lux building, the Student's Union. As a later addition to the complex and not one of the historic stone buildings, the old Dux de Lux will be the last project to be completed.
"Our current fundraising focus is $10m to fully restore the Observatory Tower on Hereford St," Price said. The Townsend Teece telescope, which was rescued from the rubble, is being restored by the University of Canterbury. Upon completion the Observatory will also include a new education space.
Fenton said the one question she was always asked about was the return of the weekend market to Market Square.
"We're aware that during the last few years, a lot of other markets have popped up around the city, and we want whatever we do to complement that. However, our winter and Easter markets have been really successful and the signs are that people really want to see the regular market return.
"We'll have a summer market and another at Easter, but the long-term prospect of a regular market returning is very likely."
During the restoration of the Boys' High building, lifts have been installed, opening up a section of the Arts Centre to a whole new sector of the community who have never seen it before. The public restrooms have also been upgraded – the old toilets a mere figment in the face of clean, clear and bright spaces.
"We love opening new spaces on the site and, going by the response to our events, we know the feeling in the community is mutual. In the past year, about 17,000 people have attended Arts Centre markets and 3500 have come along to our outdoor cinema series.
"In addition to our events, we host a huge range run by other organisations including Free Theatre, Two Productions, Christchurch Arts Festival and the World Buskers Festival."
This weekend, the centre will feature as part of the Beca Heritage Festival, with Worcester Blvd closed to traffic to celebrate 200 years since the invention of the bicycle. A vintage market, live music, food vendors, historic movies, and a dedicated art exhibition – you could almost imagine time had never marched on. But onward it does, and with it comes progress and even more to look forward to.
"We're looking forward to a great summer ahead, with a summer market planned for December 3 , the return of outdoor cinema from December to February and a fundraising concert in the Great Hall on December 17," Price said.
With Bunsen's enlarged mezzanine, Sir Antony Gormley's Stay in residence in the North Quad, and an ever-changing variety of art and craft on offer, the Arts Centre is once again pumping with life and vitality.
Do yourself and your family a favour and step back into the magic and majesty of our beautiful Arts Centre.
She's been waiting for you.
The Christchurch Mail will be profiling tenants of the Arts Centre during the coming weeks as we celebrate the vibrant and much loved heart of our city.