Albany Town Hall’s future as an arts and culture hub is quickly taking shape, with its revamped modern gallery space already booked up until early 2022.
Works to restore and repurpose the 132-year-old landmark have been under way for almost a year and are just weeks away from the finish line.
Before it is reopened to the public in December, the Advertiser was given a tour of the historic venue last week.
The hall has undergone a roof-to-floor transformation to create an exhibition space on the ground floor and restore the upstairs theatre to its original flat-floor design.
Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said the hall would be in use 363 days a year compared to just 48 in previous years.
“We have a building that is usable nearly every day of the year … and are turning it back into something of its former glory,” he said.
“It is about getting it back to a building that the whole community can use.
“It has been an iconic building for a long time … we have to maintain it as such.”
Mr Wellington said the hall held valuable memories for people of the Great Southern.
“The fact is that we have people coming down here in great lumps,” he said.
“What we’re very much about these days is making sure they enjoy their time … and find interesting things to do.
“For the people that come here, it is part and parcel of what Albany has to offer as part of its history.”
Since the addition of Albany Entertainment Centre, the heritage-listed theatre has been underused.
To make the theatre space more flexible for functions, concerts or meetings, the main floor’s tiered seating and mezzanine wings have been removed and replaced with floating, flat-floor furniture similar to its original design.
The original balcony seating has been preserved.
The old roof has been replaced and a new stage hoist added as well as improved house lighting.
A new public toilet and accessible lift have also been added.
The ground-floor gallery space has undergone a facelift with refurbished flooring and air conditioning.
Floating walls will be used to give exhibitors more flexibility to show their pieces and allow artwork to be fixed directly to the walls without damaging the building.
Artwork is set to adorn the gallery space year-round, starting with an exhibition from the City of Albany’s art collection.
The Great Southern Art Award will be the first community exhibition shown at the venue and will mark the official launch of the Albany Town Hall in early 2021.
City of Albany arts and culture manager Paul Nielsen said the space would be open to all.
“It’s important for an exhibition space to be able to support a variety of media and performance installations — there’s more to the visual arts than painting,” he said.
“For local artists to … have the opportunity to work with City staff to put on a quality exhibition, in a quality exhibition space in the middle of town is an excellent opportunity that we really haven’t had in the past.”
The City is calling for Great Southern creatives to showcase their work at a small retail space at the entrance of the hall.