Carriageworks releases 2016 program, expects to attract 2 million visitors by 2021 – SMH

November 10, 2015

By Andrew Taylor

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Carriageworks will leapfrog the Art Gallery of NSW and Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to become one of Australia’s busiest cultural institutions by 2021 with 2 million visitors, despite receiving far less public funding.

The cultural precinct based in the historic Eveleigh railway workshop received $1.98 million in government funding in 2015 – 23 per cent of its total income of $6.02 million earned from hosting major events such as Fashion Week and Sydney Contemporary art fair as well as being a venue-for-hire and box office.
American artist Nick Cave’s Heard.Syd features 60 performers parading in horse suits around the city.


Yet according to its predictions, Carriageworks is on course to attract 790,000 people in 2015 – more than MAAS’s 571,000 visitors and Australian Museum’s 405,000, which each receive more than $30 million in government funding. The AGNSW, meanwhile, reported 1.16 million visitors in 2013-14 and around $30 million of public subsidy.

Carriageworks’ visitor numbers rise to more than 1 million with the inclusion of the 300,000 people who attend its weekly farmers’ market, says director Lisa Havilah.

“We have identified a very high level of growth going forward for the next six years,” she says. “We have been able to identify that because we have been able to deliver a whole range of outcomes over the past four years as such a new institution. One of the things that has really grown is our visitation.”

Havilah says the arts centre will earn $15 million in 2021: “It has the ability to be entrepreneurial in a whole range of ways that can act publicly and commercially to provide these arts and cultural experiences.”

Carriageworks revealed its bold projections for revenue and audience numbers as it unveiled its 2016 artistic program, which features more than 40 events, spanning visual arts, dance, theatre, film and music.

Ghanaian artist El Anatsui​ will drape one of Carriageworks’ historic buildings with a 30-metre sculpture made of recycled pressed tin and mirrors woven together.

Broken Bridge II was previously displayed at New York’s High Line and is one of his works that will be shown as part of the 2016 Sydney Festival along with German musical Woyzeck​, created by American musician Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.
The premiere of new Australian play Lake Disappointment by Luke Mullins and Lachlan Philpott heads Carriageworks’ theatre program, which also includes the Sydney Festival’s About an Hour series of short plays.

It will also be one of the host venues for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Carriageworks’ lack of harbour views is a point of difference from other cultural institutions, Havilah says. “We provide something that is distinctive from everyone else because we provide this urban Sydney experience to national and international visitors, which is very different from a harbourside tourist experience.”

She adds: “Many of the projects we do engage with Redfern’s history because it is a nationally important Aboriginal place.”
Havilah says two-thirds of Carriageworks’ artists are from culturally diverse backgrounds: “Our focus is very much on Asia and the Pacific and really accessing new communities and growing communities in Sydney and across NSW.”

Korean K-Pop band Boyfriend will perform in February to open the 2016 Sydney Chinese New Year Festival. Project Banaba explores the history of the population of a South Pacific island rendered uninhabitable by phosphate mining.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra will leave the Sydney Opera House to perform Crossing the Threshold, featuring new music by three Australian composers.
Carriageworks’ resident opera company the Sydney Chamber Opera will present two shows – O Mensch! based on 21 poems by Friedrich Nietzsche and Notes from the Underground based on Dostoevsky​’s psychological novel.

Carriageworks will also join forces with Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art for two shows including French artist Mathieu Briand​’s Aka Spiral, a large-scale sound installation that gives audiences the opportunity to create a vinyl record.

Another highlight of its visual arts program will be American artist Nick Cave’s Heard.Syd, which features 60 dancers and musicians parading in horse suits around Sydney.

Havilah’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. The Deputy Premier and Arts Minister, Troy Grant, says Carriageworks has become a significant contemporary arts centre under Havilah’s leadership.

“Carriageworks is an exceptional example of what can be achieved when an entrepreneurial approach is taken, and Lisa Havilah is the driving force behind what makes Carriageworks so successful,” he says.

Mr Grant would not speculate on future appointments to the state’s cultural institutions, but he says: “Ms Havilah is doing an exceptional job at Carriageworks and I believe she has a bright future in NSW.”

Image 1: Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah (second from right) with (from left) Vicki Van Hout, Danielle Micich, Andrea James and Rosie Dennis, who are all directing shows that are part of Carriageworks’ 2016 season. Photo: Steven Siewert

Image 2: Nick Cave Heard.Detroit 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and James Prinz Photography