The Footscray Community Arts Centre is a unique community initiative based on the banks of the Maribyrnong River. In operation for almost 40 years, the centre engages the community by staging performances, hosting festivals, and encouraging positive artistic expression. Here I speak to Communications and Marketing Director Jenna Williams about the initiative, and how you can get involved.
The Footscray Arts Centre is a unique initiative in the area. How are you encouraging positive community connection in Footscray?
If you could describe the centre in three words, what would they be?
This is REALLY hard! But we have just recently asked the people in the community to do this, so here are some of the words we heard back: Diverse, Contemporary, Accessible.
How are you connecting with people on a low income? How can I get involved? Are there volunteer positions available?
There’s lots of ways to get involved! We’re committed to equity and inclusion and most of our events are free, including our monthly film night of contemporary Indigenous cinema, our festivals and our exhibitions. We also run a range of arts-based workshops like animation and photography, as well as programs for kids and toddlers. We do work with volunteers, mostly when we have a big event on like the Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival. You can find out what is coming up on our website (www.footscrayarts.com) or by downloading our program, or just drop by the Centre. We’re open 7 days.
How is Footscray unique as an artistic community?
All artistic communities are unique, but Footscray is possibly particularly exciting because of the diversity of the communities here. More than 130 cultural groups call Melbourne’s west home, with more than 150 languages spoken. There is a strong Indigenous community and the projected increase of children, young people, elderly and middle class families moving into the area is growing rapidly. This creates a pretty diverse community of arts and cultural practice – there is always something happening in the area.
It’s probably for the community to say what our biggest achievement is and over the 40 years of our history there are bound to be a few competing moments. Perhaps the expansion of the Centre into the warehouse space could be considered significant as it has enabled us to provide more space for community groups to showcase their work, including in our contemporary gallery, Roslyn Smorgon, and our Performance Space. Another significant achievement could also be ArtLife, our artistic program for artists with disability that has been running for more than 20 years and produces innovative contemporary art. I guess, for me it is the deep connection the communities of Melbourne’s west have with the centre and continual conversations and exchange we have through arts and cultural practice.
What are your plans going forward?
Amongst other things, celebrating our 40th next year! We have a suite of exciting events and activities planned. It’s going to be a very, very exciting year.