2 February 2023

Funding boost gets the Ambo Creative Industries Hub on track

| Chris Roe
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the Ambo

ERA’s Tim Kurylowicz leads NSW Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin through the old Ambo building. Photo: Ben Franklin (Twitter).

It’s been a great week for the arts, both nationally and here in the Riverina.

In the same week that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled a new national cultural policy, the NSW Arts Minister was in Wagga to deliver an $813,000 boost to Eastern Riverina Arts (ERA).

READ ALSO The ‘Ambo’ will connect the Riverina’s arts and business for a creative future

“The arts shouldn’t be political,” Minister Ben Franklin declared.

“The arts shouldn’t be a political plaything and it should have the support of everyone in politics.”

The money represents two separate grants that will go toward the ERA’s ‘Ambo Creative Industries Hub’ in the historic building on Johnston Street.

Tim Kurylowicz

Tim Kurylowicz says the two funding grants are “game-changing” for the Ambo project. Photo: Chris Roe.

For ERA Executive Director Tim Kurylowicz, it’s a game changer for his little organisation.

“One of them was $250,000 through Create New South Wales, and that enables us to fit this out properly,” he says walking through the partially renovated interior of the old two-storey ambulance station.

“With that funding, we can put proper high-spec lighting in the gallery, really nice studio equipment in the recording studio and just decent new clean furniture that’ll support people to really put their best foot forward in their creative careers.”

READ ALSO The wait is (almost) over with the launch of Wagga’s new museum space

The second grant, through the State Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund, will go towards a project called “Open doors at the Ambo”.

“It’s all about opening the doors and making sure that the community gets the absolute best value out of this new facility as possible,” Tim says.

“We’re a tiny organisation with just one full-time staff member and a couple of part-timers, so the idea of managing a bustling hive of activity is great in theory, but we’re pretty stretched.

“This project gives us three years to have an additional full-time staff member and a little bit of money to actually invest in partnerships.”

The Ambo

An official delegation toured the Ambo as the funding was announced. Photo: Ben Franklin (Twitter).

Wagga City Council has been working on restoring the site since the creative industries hub project was unveiled in August 2022.

While still under renovation, the potential is evident, and Tim’s enthusiasm is infectious as he points out the heritage features and shares his vision for the finished facility.

The old, white-tiled ambulance parking bay at the front of the building is being transformed into a large gallery space with glass doors to replace the roller shutters and adjacent rooms to become offices.

“We call them creative office suites and they will be for creative entrepreneurs who want to take their work from the kitchen table and into a fully furnished office and establish the creative businesses of the future,” Tim explains.

Upstairs are more offices in the making, a multimedia space and several art studios.

Out the back, Tim proudly indicates the large outdoor area that overlooks the lagoon.

“We’ve got this beautiful functional laneway that leads through to an enclosed event space that then opens up into another fenced, open-air event space with a deck where we can set up live bands and things like that.”

The Ambo

Tim Kurylowicz shows off the Ambo’s outdoor space overlooking the lagoon. Photo: Chris Roe.

With the funding approved, it’s hoped that the project can be accelerated and completed within the coming months.

When it comes to the ongoing wrangle between Wagga City Council and the NSW Government over the purchase of the building, Tim says some have suggested that this funding somehow addresses the complaint that council was charged too much.

“The two things are not related at all, these were grants we applied for on a merit-based system, and we’ve won,” he explains.

“Council is still 610 grand in the hole so they are then forced to charge us a commercial rate on the rent.

“So that’s money that I can’t then invest in staff and community services.”

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