Taking It to Streets

Traditionally despite the Australian outdoor culture the arts have predominantly been something we have enjoyed indoors at theatres, galleries, and other public and private entertainment venues. With Covid social distancing requirements now challenging the economics of indoor performances and a need to revitalise key hubs across Greater Sydney, greater attention is now being played to take visual and performance arts to the great outdoors.

Whether it is footpaths and streets, parks, council car parks, rooftops, or forecourts every city, neighbourhood and community has a plethora of public spaces that are ripe for the picking of performance. The possibilities are only bounded by imagination and a will to take a ‘how to’ rather than a ‘how not to’ approach. There are clear social and economic benefits of creating a diversity of experiences in the many public spaces – and private places – large and small, day and night, including development of a 24 hour economy right across our great city.

Artists can be given the opportunity to develop specialized content for outdoor performances and presentations, rather than merely moving the same event from regular indoors style/format to the outdoors. This should include a broad range of live performances including music, theatre, and visual art, suitable for all ages, cultures and tastes in many different places with activities attracting and entertaining families, teens, grandparents, and millennials in a safe environment.

Two places in the CBD that are eminently suitable for these types of Covid-safe outdoor public activities are The Domain and the Cutaway at Barangaroo. They have good transport links and accessibility, as well as hospitality outlets close-by so that audiences can drink and dine before or after, expanding the economic benefits to surrounding businesses.

Traditionally using public spaces like these requires lengthy and costly approvals so it is time to review, revise and reform the consent process and capture the opportunity to cooperate across governments and industry to reduce time, effort and cost and reap the rewards.

The associated retail, hospitality and transport spend stemming from audiences attending these types of events can be substantial, not only helping to rebuild key economic precincts such as Sydney’s CBD but local communities and businesses spread throughout town centres and neighbourhoods across Sydney.

Success will hinge on redefining and reimagining experiences with the arts and reimagining public and private spaces to provide enjoyable and accessible, Covid-safe events. This can be achieved by either holding range of smaller more intimate events or having performers move around among several spaces. Technology can likewise be leveraged to not only create multiple experiences using large portable screens and audio streaming to socially distanced audiences but also create engaging immersive performances through virtual and augmented reality.

Greater awareness and appreciation of the public domain and utilizing the amazing and creative talents of artists, will give citizens more freedom and access to the arts in previously unimagined ways. A recent Accelerator conducted by City People brought together great creative minds to interrogate and have developed nine steps to how arts and culture can connect people in public spaces during Covid and beyond.

Covid has created the opportunity for urban leaders and the arts community to come together to curate, coordinate and collaborate to take arts and culture to the Streets.

Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum with Olivia Ansell, Sydney Festival Director Designate 2022-2024 and Kim Spinks, Director, City People on 30 September 2020. Hear more in the podcast and video.

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