A new concept has arrived in Adelaide and it’s set to change how we view South Australian arts – quite literally.

ArtBox is a plan for a performance venue for regional and metropolitan SA, brought to us by local not-for-profit team: ArtSembly.

Still in its concept stages, and taking the form of a flexible, portable pop-up style event venue, ArtBox was imagined into (nearly) existence by theatre enthusiast, arts advocate and Bespoke SA founder, Peta-Anne Louth.

A vision: what ArtBox might look like in Adelaide's CBD.
A vision: what ArtBox might look like in Adelaide’s CBD.

Peta-Anne says the vision for the exciting new venue came to her from a desire to showcase the arts we have in our state during festivals and all year round.

“The concept for ArtBox started two years ago at The Mill. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine called Michelle Delaney, otherwise known as Maddog in the scene. She’s an event builder and designer for festivals and theatres. She was going on to do an engineering course, so I asked if that meant she can build things, and she said yes!” Peta-Anne laughs.

“That’s how the conversation started – this little brainchild of mine of having something South Australian owned. At this stage, we only had The Garden [Of Unearthly Delights], and with The Garden being Melbourne run, and also very tent focused, there was nothing to showcase South Australian arts in a pop up way, so we felt that it would be a really interesting concept that no one else is really doing.”

The conversation then continued, as Peta-Anne involved other influencers in the Adelaide arts scene, and discovered they were all as enthusiastic as her.

“I started talking with Andy Packer from Slingsby, Chris Drummond from Brink and Geordie Brookman from State Theatre Company about what their needs were, and what would they want in a venue if they wanted to showcase something. Then as luck would have it, Fringe knew we were starting to talk about this product, and when Walter Brooke Architects started looking to also build something of that pop up nature, they pointed them in our direction,” she says.

“Michelle Delaney remains as a consultant for us. We’re very mindful of the fact that architects build wonderful structures, but they’re not necessarily art focused, and we need that focus, so we keep her on board to keep the architect on that line. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with Walter Brooke.”

With the state government on board, as well as key players in the industry, ArtSembly were given funding to continue to work on producing this unique pop up venue.

ArtBox would have the capacity to pop up anytime, virtually anywhere

But what will it look like when it’s built? Peta-Anne says the modular concept is a sculptural piece of temporary architecture, which has the capacity to take theatre anywhere.

“The premise was for it to be like Space Theatre, but with the ability to move. Nothing will be static, it will be completely up to the company or function to how it looks inside. It will hold 150 to 200 pax, depending on how it’s seated,” she says.

“We’ll have room for a full stage so you can fit half of a full orchestra. You’ve got wing space, back space, and the shipping container actually folds in on itself so you can operate a bar on the inside and box office on the outside. We wanted the ability for companies to make their own money off the bars as well.”

Looking towards 2017 for its eventual launch, ArtBox is set to bring about a change in the way we approach theatre, or indeed theatre approaches us.

“My dream at the beginning was to highlight South Australian arts during busy peak times, like Fringe, and showcase what we have here all year round. I don’t think people in South Australia know about the brilliant arts we have here. We’re not the poor cousins to Melbourne or Sydney. We have some of the best theatre, from the children’s companies through to the dance companies. We’ve got a really healthy culture here but I don’t think it’s highlighted quite enough,” Peta-Anne says.

“My dream is for there to be a showcase of South Australian products. Geordie Brookman is very excited to perhaps take a State Theatre show and bring down that wall from the Festival Theatre and start engaging new audiences. I think that’s really important. Some people are quite frightened to go to Festival Theatre. It doesn’t engage with them for whatever reason, so I think you need to demystify that and open it up to new audiences. I think having a contemporary modern space, there’s more capacity for that to happen.”

While ArtBox is still a vision, the passionate ArtSembly team are working hard behind the scenes to make it an actuality.

There are ways South Australians can help to bring the dream to life, and Peta-Anne urges us to keep our eye on the new website to find out how we can get involved.

“I’m working with equally impassioned people. There’s a bunch of people at Artsembly who are as passionate as I am, and the arts community in Adelaide is small but supportive and I’m driven by that. Even the builders are passionate. All sorts of people want to be involved because it’s made here, for here. Fingers crossed we can get it over the line!” she enthuses.

“The beautiful people at Freerange Future who do wonderful work have designed our logo and our website so people can contact us via our website to see how they can contribute. We’ll be setting up a way for people to donate to us as well. Every little bit helps.”

ArtboxCheck out ArtBox on Facebook to keep abreast of the developments of this extraordinary new arts initiative as they happen.

By Libby Parker
Concept pictures used with the permission of ArtBox