Artists and musicians are being handed keys to the heritage-listed registrar general’s building in Sydney’s CBD in an effort to spark a new creative hub in politician and lawyer-laden Macquarie Street.
The temporary hub, near Hyde park and the courts, will invite arts institutions to rehearse, collaborate and create.
There will also be a dedicated space where works from the Lismore Regional Gallery and the Richmond River Historical Society damaged during recent floods will be restored and repaired.
The premier, Dominic Perrottet, said the new space – called RGB Creative – was the first step of what would be a “significant piece of work right along Macquarie Street”.
“A lot of these buildings have been closed to the public. They should be open for the public to enjoy and appreciate and we don’t do enough with what we have,” he said.
“I’d love to see a greater connection through the Domain into the urban part of our Sydney CBD.
“It will take time but I believe by the end of this project, we will have a great cultural precinct here in Sydney.”
The new spaces will be open until February 2023, while work progresses on a business case for a new New South Wales history museum in the same precinct.
The independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, said he hoped the precinct could freshen up Macquarie Street, an area suffering from “too many lawyers and politicians”.
The state government has been working with the City of Sydney on projects to entice people back to the city after two years of remote working and damage to cultural institutions due to lockdowns and Covid cancellations.
RGB Creative brings together a dozen cultural organisations including the Sydney Writers’ Room, Sydney Youth Orchestra and Music in the Regions.
Also in the new space is The House that Dan Built, a not-for-profit, female-focused arts association. Its founder and director, Danielle O’Keefe, said the space had allowed her and the team to begin their recovery.
“We felt an overwhelming sense of relief that we were going to be able to invest in our practice again after two years of being isolated, that we were going to be able to intersect with other arts organisations,” she said.
“The last two years have been diabolical and we are still really feeling the effects of Covid.”
The NSW arts minister, Ben Franklin, who is originally from the northern rivers, was happy to see the work being done to save collections damaged during recent flooding.
“Through the work that’s happening in this building, we’re going to be able to bring those two [affected] centres back to life. We’re going to be able to bring back that beating heart once again of Lismore.”