New theatre space a ‘tonic’ for the city

Gareth McMillan
Gareth McMillan
A pilot performing arts space in the heart of Dunedin aims to help address the shortage of venues while consultation continues on a new performance space for the city.

To be administered by the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust (DFAT), the venue, named Te Whare o Rukutia, is located in the building formerly occupied by the Dunedin Community Gallery in Princes St.

DFAT director Gareth McMillan said the space would help address the immediate need of the arts community for a fit-for-purpose, affordable small venue, while the Dunedin City Council continued its research around a new performance space.

“This is the tonic the city needs,’’ Mr McMillan said.

‘‘It has the potential to be a real foundation stone in Otepoti’s performing arts infrastructure, a home for our artists as we work through the development and engagement with our community to see what we need to build for the future.”

DFAT, Prospect Park Productions, and Dunedin Arts Festival, with input from Stage South, have spent the past year working on the delivery of Te Whare o Rukutia.

DFAT is continuing as the sole administrating organisation for the pilot phase of the venue, and will work with the performing arts community to gauge long-term viability and need.

A ropu of mana whenua has worked closely on the plans and has given the name Te Whare o Rukutia to the venue — paying homage to Rukutia, a traditional exponent of kapa haka and performing arts

In a statement, DFAT said the venue would fit into a niche not filled by the city’s other small-to-medium theatres.

The establishment of the new venue at 20 Princes St involves a reshuffle of arts venues in the central city, with DFAT moving to 19 George St, and the Community Gallery moving into the former DFAT office at 26 Princes St — next door to Te Whare o Rukutia.

The move has been facilitated by the DCC, both as owner of the buildings and key funder of the arts in the city.

Council Creative Partnerships manager Kirsty Glengarry said the council was excited about the Te Whare o Rukutia concept and supported the collaborative approach of DFAT to developing the venue.

The pilot project is being funded through a range of sources, including DCC, Creative New Zealand’s Nga Toi a Rohe Arts in the Regions Fund, Otago Community Trust, and the Alexander McMillan Trust.

The feasibility study was also supported by Creative New Zealand via an Arts Continuity Grant last year.

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