Thinking outside the square: an exciting new pop-up arts venue for Adelaide

By Libby Parker

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 portable performance venue for regional and metropolitan South Australia, brought to us by local not-for-profit team ArtSembly.

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

Peta-Anne says the vision for the exciting new venue came to her from a desire to showcase the arts in South Australia.

“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… 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 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 the State Theatre Company about what their needs were, and what they would want in a venue. 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.

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 as to how it looks inside. It will hold 150 to 200 people, 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 at a 2017 launch, ArtBox is set to bring about a change in the way we approach theatre, or, more accurately, the way 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.

Check out ArtBox on Facebook to keep abreast of the developments of this extraordinary new arts initiative as it happens.