A team of architects and designers from Monash university started works inside the court house last week.
They disassembled the jury and judiciary bench with some of the scrap timber being donated to the Warracknabeal Men’s shed.
The Researchers, partnering with Working Heritage, Creative Victoria and Yarriambiack Shire Council, plan to pilot the ‘art hotel’ model for reinvigorating regional towns by transforming the unused court house into an artist-in-residence space, where artists will live, work and exhibit.
They plan to have the creative space operational before Y-Fest 2020, in time to cater for an expected high number of tourists.
Many ideas have sparked through the initiation of this project, after two years of being in the designing and planning phase.
Monash Lecturer in Architecture Dr Tom Morgan said they’re juggling a few possibilities at the moment to create an interactive space.
“Part of the idea has been about finding creative solutions to these kinds of spaces, that doesn’t mean whacky solutions - it means lateral stuff,” Dr Morgan said.
“It’s hybrid things; it probably can’t be just one thing, it’s got to be able to play with a few ideas.”
Dr Morgan said the project will pilot for a year after launch, before they assess the overall success of the creative space.
“We’ve got to ensure the pilot program works, and it will. There’s space for the community and there’s space for some local artists,” he said.
“Once it becomes bigger it will be utilised more as a community space rather than just the art hotel and the artist residence.”
Dr Morgan said they would like to explore astronomical ideas, incorparting the Wimmera night sky and also local indigenous and settler histories.
“Ideas of incorporating the sky, lots of cosmological kinds of structures, references to a local set of material and material knowledges, in the sense that this region has incredibly robust infrastructural histories.”
“The Grain silos independent of the art trails, is a fascinating and incredibly powerful one. It’s a big engineering project no one really talks about.
“There’s also elements of an indigenous component, but it’s harder to talk to that. “
Still in the brainstorming phase, Dr Morgan said at this stage they’re focussing on bringing the building up to compliance.
He said with just a few structural issues, the building is relatively sound.
“At the end of 2020, there will be toilets, a DDA Ramp, new entry, the interior space will be clean, the floor will be nice and neat, the wiring will be redone,” Dr Morgan said.
“Regardless of what occurs, there will be a space that will be useable. Part of the barriers of finding a tenant is being without a toilet and without the wiring.”
Dr Morgan said the project aims to build the town and region’s visitor economy while also stimulating community participation in the arts.
“There’s a great flow of tourism in this area, but often there’s not great ways of capturing it,” Dr Morgan said.
“There seems to be a lot of people passing through for the trail. But maybe they gravitate more towards Horsham or larger centres as a stop over point. So I think creating something that can leverage that is not a bad idea.”
He said there will also be a administrative position available to a community member; they also aim to attract both local and outside artists to take part in the ‘art hotel’ making it all inclusive within the community and abroad.
“We don’t want people to feel there’s just people coming from outside and taking advantage of it,” Dr Morgan said.
“There will be a local position for someone to administer the space which will be around point three; so maybe a day and a half a week, funded through the duration of the program.
“The intent is to find two local artists and two not local artists and try and retain parody.”
While renovating the building last week they had many visitors in the community make suggestions to the team.
“That’s been useful, it’s been good to have people coming and dropping in the last couple of days with insights and ideas and knowledge about what has happened here previously,” he said.
“We’ve had people tell us about when they were in court; which would have been a while ago - back in ’83. It’s got a lot of history which is another challenge as well.”
The Monash team from the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture consists of Senior Lecturer in Architecture Dr Matthew Bird, Senior Lecturer in Architecture Dr Jason Crow, Lecturer in Architecture Dr Tom Morgan, Lecturer in Architecture Charity Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Industrial Design Dr Mark Richardson, and Researcher Dasha Spasojevic
Also collaborating on the project are astrophysics and astronomy academics including Associate Professor Daniel Price, Physics and Astronomy, Monash University and Dr Duane Hamacher, Associate Professor of Indigenous Astronomy & Science, School of Physics University of Melbourne.