Powerhouse celebrates a milestone

Phu Nguyen with Liana Molina and Lizeth Mendoza from artist collective XXXL and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre director Craig Donarski. Phu coordinated Off The Tanks, a two-part graffiti battle using the legal walls on the tanks behind the building.
Phu Nguyen with Liana Molina and Lizeth Mendoza from artist collective XXXL and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre director Craig Donarski. Phu coordinated Off The Tanks, a two-part graffiti battle using the legal walls on the tanks behind the building.

The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC ) is turning 25 in October - and the community is invited to join in the party.

The official birthday is on October 26 with the free Cheers to 25 years event with some of the most exciting young Australian artists performing to celebrate the community, creativity and culture of the arts centre from 2pm to 5pm.

The One Past Liverpool exhibition is also on display which features new work from emerging artists alongside artworks from the history of Casula Powerhouse's artistic program.

We caught up with CPAC director Craig Donarski to talk about the go-to Western Sydney outpost for Sydney's top-tier arts events which has attracted more than 70,000 visitors in the past quarter of a century.

How does it feel to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the CPAC?

Exciting and energising. 25 is a special milestone that indicates that a place and an organisation has "arrived", achieving a status that will set us up for the next 25. That said, the last thing we want to be is too grown-up, as it's a young area full of young people who are a really big part of what we do and why we do it.

What have been some of the highlights over the past 25 years?

How many pages do you have? There really are too many to list over such a long period, but if I had to pick just a few, I'd say becoming the home of the Blake Prize (Australia's biggest and most famous prize for religious art) would have to be one of them. The years of amazing events with the local Pasifikan communities, from Pacific Wave to Body Pasifika to Oceania Rising would have to be another. Bringing some of the great festivals of Sydney out here, including Sydney Festival and Sydney Film Festival and many more is pretty significant too.

Why has there been an explosion of growth since you took over? What have been some of things you have implemented?

We've tried to put the pedal to the metal and increase both the quantity and the quality of the offerings here, whether it's the visual or performing arts, plus adding new attractions like Bellbird Dining, our Kitchen Garden, the new playgrounds and dog parks. The place is doing more than ever before and being visited by more people accordingly. We've also gotten better at telling people about it, taking it to the streets, so to speak, with a new emphasis on marketing and publicity. There's no point in doing amazing things if people don't know about them.

How is important is honouring the past when celebrating a milestone?

Very, as we wouldn't even be around if it wasn't for the extraordinary people who came before us and created this place from ground up, be it former Directors, staff and the artists and performers who brought it to life. But we don't want to spend too much time looking in the rear vision mirror when there's so much to look forward to. We want to be 25 years young.

What's in CPAC future? Where do you see the next 25 years going?

I see it exploding in growth in parallel with Liverpool's explosion in growth. We're so hot right now and that's only going to increase over the coming years as we welcome the new airport, aerotropolis and all the accompanying opportunities that come with it. The sky's the limit, pardon the pun, and I feel very fortunate to have arrived here on the cusp of this period of exciting and dynamic change. The arts and arts centres should reflect that, so really we shouldn't be able to imagine where the next 25 years will take us... Just strap yourselves in because it's going to be a wild ride!

How can you describe the CPAC?

A unique multi-arts centre, made in and around the shell of an old power station, that's home to six gallery spaces, a 320-seat theatre, a performance space, Bellbird restaurant, artist and kids studios, a ceramics workshop, a huge function hall and an artists residence. Set on 20 hectares of Georges Riverbank, complete with its own railway station and ample free parking, it recently unveiled exciting new playgrounds, an outdoor gym, a Ninja training course, two off-leash dog parks and soon a new sculpture walk.