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Artists take a stand against Parramatta Powerhouse

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By ANTONIA MANGOS

Although the Powerhouses’s Ultimo location has been saved, the NSW Government’s decision to press ahead with the construction of a second Powerhouse museum in western Sydney has sparked a public outcry. 

After months of deliberation from the government, a second Powerhouse museum is set to make its mark in Parramatta on the site of existing historic buildings. The decision has left local artists and members of the community scratching their heads. 

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The plan to demolish the original Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and relocate to Parramatta had been in place by the State Government since February 2015 before a last minute U-turn on the plan was announced in July this year. Now, NSW will have two museums, and the Parramatta precinct, which is yet to begin construction, has caused contention due to the historical importance of the location.

The two buildings, Willow Grove and St George’s Terrace are examples of Parramatta’s rich history and community roots dating back to the 1870s. Willow Grove served as a private two-storey villa and subsequently as a maternity hospital while St George’s Terrace is a prime example of Victorian Italianate architecture, according to local artists.

Saving heritage through art

These local artists are the Guerrilla Gallery who have collaborated with the Craze Collective, The Knitters of MAAS Decoration as well as Global Gardens to protest the state government’s decision. William Stolk, from the Guerilla Gallery, spoke to City Hub about their project.

“The fundamental idea of the St George’s Terrace Gallery was to bring together local artists who are passionate advocates for preserving the history of Parramatta and communicate with Create NSW in language they should understand,” Stolk said.

“To have such talented people come together with support from companies such as Global Gardens is both a testament to the cause and to the fervour of the community in fighting to preserve our history.”

The construction and planning processes surrounding the Parramatta Powerhouse have been met with much public scrutiny. In a move which has left the Guerilla Gallery activists furious, The Sydney Morning Herald revealed in September that the preventions for redevelopment over the two sites were quietly removed last year to make way for the government’s plan.

On top of this, Stolk reported that protest art created by the Guerilla Gallery and other local artists was removed prior to a site tour conducted by the NSW Government. The tour marked a pivotal role in determining the fate of the buildings for demolition.

“It’s unfortunate that our perspectives were figuratively and literally erased. This move by the powers effectively censored a community sentiment… It’s quite frustrating that our voices are being stifled, because we strongly believe that art is for the people and we do this to encourage conversation about subjects that should be openly discussed by the people it impacts most.”

View the full story via City Hub.

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