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Engaging the wheels of change

REDFERN: The appointment in February of new CEO, Lisa Havilah, marks a new phase in the evolution of CarriageWorks. Ms Havilah aims to develop her arts programs not just in response to the history and the unique location of CarriageWorks, but also in response to the drivers of community needs and interests reports Libby Hogan in the September 2011 issues of the South Sydney Herald.

In her previous appointment as Director of Campbelltown Arts Centre she changed the philosophy of how the arts are presented to the community. Instead of receiving touring exhibitions, she worked in partnership with the communities of South West Sydney, developing programs that responded to issues and interests. This same vision also characterises her plans for CarriageWorks.

Ms Havilah aims to develop her arts programs in response to the history and the unique location of CarriageWorks. She said: “CarriageWorks has such a rich cultural history … this building, built in 1890 has a strong history of innovation and making trains, three state premiers emerged from working at CarriageWorks, home of the union movement, innovative on a whole range of levels.”

One challenge that Ms Havilah faces is that CarriageWorks is still a relatively new space of only six years and that many people still do not know what goes on at this old railway warehouse. She will market each project differently and aims to broaden audience appeal.

“CarriageWorks is still finding its identity. I always like to think the first thing you are making, if there is commitment to excellence in your program, will define your brand for the future.”

Ms Havilah has focused on creating a contemporary arts program that emerges from the community including an Aboriginal arts project, mentoring programs enabling local artists to work with international artists and developing new theatre spaces. Plans have already been made to develop two of the rehearsal spaces into smaller theatres in response to community artists wanting a diversity of spaces.

A main goal is to develop an Aboriginal arts project and to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities and organisations in Redfern.

Mindful of the changing nature and demographics of Redfern, Ms Havilah has noted changes in the area’s makeup. She is interested in what effect that change has on the community. The demographic is changing as more public housing is turned into private residences, with different communities moving into the area. She has also noticed visible changes on Redfern Street, such as the developing café society with an original two or three cafes expanding to “15 cafes in a 16-week period”.

“Change is fantastic for Redfern”, she says, “but it also is important for Redfern to remain who it is, not to lose its identity with gentrification.”

Photo: Esther Turnbull - Lisa Havilah

Source: September 2011 South Sydney Herald