The Powerhouse Geelong

0 Comments 07 July 2015

Located in what was once an abandoned power station, the Powerhouse is an independently owned and operated art space featuring hundreds of artists and showcasing a constantly changing array of artworks. The space serves as a legal way to display street art, providing artists with a chance to exhibit their work in a risk-free and collaborative setting. New works are always being added to the collection, giving The Powerhouse an interesting evolutionary aspect to it.

While artists aren’t generally paid to produce work for the Powerhouse, they do experience various benefits from having pieces there. They become part of a supportive community of local artists, and are also likely to get private/commercial commissions from Powerhouse visitors. Especially for young artists, the Powerhouse provides the perfect opportunity to gain exposure and experience simultaneously. There’s a continuously steady stream of public visitors daily, meaning that there is no shortage of people viewing each and every work.

While there are inevitably a few sceptics for any project (especially those that are art related), the public response to the Powerhouse seems to be majorly positive. Largely due to this, the initiative is only growing – with various expansions set for the near future. However, the Powerhouse will never lose the industrial/abandoned vibe; which is so idiosyncratic and vital to its appeal.

I asked Heather Threadgold – anthropologist, author, artist, and volunteer coordinator at the Powerhouse- a few questions about The Powerhouse and both its current effect on the community it attracts, and how it will expand this effect in the future:

What effect does the Powerhouse have on the careers of artists who display work there?
Powerhouse Geelong offers a constant public display of artworks that at times are only seen in illegal spaces such as on trains, on laneway walls and hidden under bridges. Not all artists have participated in illegal work. Mostly the majority of the 200 + artists who have produced work at the powerhouse have some sort of artistic background, whether it be graphic design or airbrushing. Most artists self – promote their work via social media and some have exhibited locally or internationally. The exposure of Powerhouse Geelong boosts the profiles of all of the artists who have work there, and this is due to the public display and exposure on Instagram. Over 30,000 people have visited Powerhouse Geelong in the past 6 months and unlike gallery exhibitions that last on average 2 months, Powerhouse Geelong is open every day of the week all year round.

Many of the artists have also been ‘poached’ by corporate branding due to their involvement with the Powerhouse, leading them to be involved in all kinds of projects.

What place does the Powerhouse have in the community, and in Geelong as a city?
Powerhouse Geelong opens its doors to a huge variety of artists and in Geelong, a well know hub previously for traditional art exhibitions, this is innovative for the region. Melbourne has been known worldwide for its laneways filled with graffiti and street art and this extends now to Geelong with the Powerhouse. A new community of artists from a variety of backgrounds with a combined passion for art has emerged since the opening of Powerhouse Geelong. Not only artists, but also photographers, performing arts, dance, writers, school groups, and the curious public.

Where did the idea for creating the Powerhouse come from?
The idea for Powerhouse Geelong was brought about by an individual; Ian Ballis. Ian has had years of experience owning and managing large old industrial buildings and transforming them in to vintage warehouses, markets, and arts precincts. The Powerhouse Geelong concept is the only one of its kind in the world at present.

What developments can we expect from the Powerhouse in the future?
Powerhouse Geelong has a huge future.  It is only in its infant stage (6 months old). An onsite cafe, gardens, landscaping, sculptures, a fully equipped venue for large arts projects, and more are to take place.

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