THE WEST Gippsland Arts Centre will trial conducting backstage tours in a bid to bring more people to the facility.
Above: Rob Robson shows off the WGAC's wall of fame. Photo by article author.
First published in the 13 March 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy today from retailers across Baw Baw.
Starting from Saturday 21 March, two tours will be run on every day the Warragul Farmers’ and Arts Markets run.
The move will seek to take advantage of the popularity of the markets, which bring huge numbers of people to the Arts Centre precinct and Civic Park every month.
“It’s really energised and activated this arts precinct on those days,” West Gippsland Arts Centre manager Rob Robson told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“The Farmers’ and Arts Markets are attracting lots and lots of people and I guess, in a way, we feel a little bit guilty; we’ve got this activation of the arts precinct but currently we are closed.
“It doesn’t seem right.
“Clearly we don’t want to cut the lunch of the markets, we don’t want to ambush them, but we asked ‘is there something we can do to complement that?'”
For Mr Robson, the tours would be a chance to introduce new people to the Arts Centre and its potential refurbishment.
“There are a lot of people who come to the markets from out of town, visitors, people who don’t usually come into the Arts Centre, so there’s an opportunity there to just bring them in,” he said.
“So we will be conducting a couple of backstage tours on the day, the building will be open and we will be inviting people to pop in and have a look.
“We would like people to come and try a seat in the auditorium, see how it feels, so sort of an easy entry. Then I will walk them around back-stage.
“It’s more the bits people wouldn’t usually see. When you sit in the auditorium you’re not necessarily aware of what’s back there.
“Because we’re moving toward this consultation on our refurbishment into the future, it would be a great opportunity to get some feedback from the community.
“I can sort of one-on-one or one-to-20, talk about our plans, what our hopes are, and people can hear what the dream is and give me their feedback.”
Mr Robson said key attractions on the hour-long tours would be the wall backstage signed by many of the performing arts groups to have used the space since it opened, as well as the Arts Centre “ghost.”
“Every good theatre should have a ghost,” he said.
The trial will run for three months and, if successful, more attractions will be added. But measuring success will not be a simple matter of counting heads.
“We’ve committed to doing three, if it gets interest we may think of other things we might do on the day,” Mr Robson said.
“We might have some music in the building, or our local community arts groups might want to come in and rehearse on those days which gives them an opportunity to show off a scene to people who might not have bought a ticket yet.
“But we haven’t really discussed that.
“At the moment it’s opening the doors, blowing the air out of the place and getting people to come in and have a look.
“Success will be measured by community engagement. If I reach five or six or 10 or fifteen people who were not aware of the place and as a consequence of that now want to know more, that will be the success.”
The times of the tours are yet to be finalised but will be advertised with A-frame signs on the day as well as on the West Gippsland Arts Centre’s Facebook page. The tours will be free and people will be able to just turn up on the day.
Mr Robson said the Farmers’ and Arts Markets had reacted positively to the tours idea, as well as a number of other arts projects planned for Civic Park.
“They’re great. We had a meeting with them the other day on the new sculptural installation in the park, Footsteps of Giants, and they’re very enthusiastic about these things,” he said.
“I’m finding them terrific to work with.”
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