There's been some concern that Osborne House might be sold to the highest bidder to be turned into a hotel or something commercial, but we are hoping that it wlll become a community arts centre. Cheryl and others have worked hard in recent years to use the building for exhibitions and events related to art or Geelong's history. Let's hope there will be funding to make it into a viable wonderful arts centre. Already the stables of Osborne House are being used as a Maritime Museum, acknowledging the past history of association with naval college.
Historic Osborne House could become city arts central
GEELONG’S historic Osborne House could be turned
into a vibrant, community arts hub like Melbourne’s hugely successful
Abbottsford Convent. With artists, musicians, cafes, wine bars, markets, workshops,
special events and exhibitions, Abbottsford Convent attracts scores of local
families and tourists both throughout the week and on weekends, all year-round.
Osborne Park Association president, Cheryl Scott, said a proposal
was drafted in 2011 outlining the case for the council-owned Osborne House to
be developed into an arts and social hub. Ms Scott said the Os Artz Proposal was modelled on Abbottsford
Convent and the Gasworks Arts Park in South Melbourne, so named as it was
originally a gas plant.
The Gasworks Arts Park, owned by the City of Port Phillip and set
on eight acres, is now promoted as “a bohemian-meets-city-chic arts community”,
with art studios, workshop spaces, galleries, theatres and a dog-friendly cafe.
Ms Scott said Osborne House had been mostly vacant for the past
The Os Artz Proposal had “just sat on desks” of City of Greater
Geelong officers, partly because of changes to the city’s mayor, then chief
executive officer, she said. While small areas of the
bluestone mansion were occupied by community groups, the many upstairs rooms
were empty, Ms Scott said.
The council had indicated it did not want to sell the National
Trust-listed Osborne House, which was the home of the Shire of Corio for 52
years before almagamation, she said.
Cowie ward councillor Eddie Kontelj had also been very supportive
of the Osborne Park Association and Os Artz Proposal,
Ms Scott said. “We would be expecting council support - absolutely - for our
plan, because they are saying they are looking at an arts-led recovery for
Geelong. We talked to the Mayor prior to his election and he said yes, he was
in favour of the concept, and we have tried to have another meeting with him,”
she said. Ms Scott said she was “surprised and disappointed” the proposal
had not yet been taken up by the council.
Osborne House was almost exactly as the Shire of Corio had left it
in 1993, and, besides a veranda which had been judged unsafe, the building was
basically sound and serviceable, Ms Scott said.
“There is nothing the matter with it apart from it being
old-fashioned. It will need some money spent on it but it doesn’t need to be in
the millions of dollars,” she said. “We’re just looking at being able to house community groups on
whatever basis. Artists-in-residence, artisans, we envisage there could be
music and there’s already a kitchen, which needs renovating but would work for
a cafe.There could be community gardens, exhibitions all the time and
definitely more creative spaces for whoever wants and needs them. And we’re not
just looking at Geelong, we’re looking at the whole Geelong region. Abbottsford
Convent is really vibrant — we want to be like that.
“But what we’ve put in our proposal doesn’t need to be the
be-all-and-end-all of it, it’s open to being developed,” Ms Scott said.
The rambling and formerly derelict Abbotsford Convent had been
“saved from the clutches of developers” by a one-off $5 million grant from the
former Bracks Labor Government and pledges from arts patrons including Dame
Elisabeth Murdoch, she said.
It is now a major Melbourne tourist attraction and has won a swag
Osborne Park — which sits near the water’s edge in North Geelong
and boasts spectacular, uninteruppted views across Corio Bay — was built in
1858 for Robert Muirhead by architects Webb and Taylor.
Cr Kontelj said the Osborne Park Association had been very patient
in waiting for council to make a decision on the project. The City was keen to find an appropriate use for the property,
which potentially mixed community usage and access with a commercial interest,
that generated income, Cr Kontelj said. “It may well be something along the lines of the Oz Arts proposal
but whether to the significance and extremes of an Abbottsford Convent, I can’t
say,” Cr Kontelj said. “Certainly (council likes the idea of) having some of Osborne
House accessible for community use but also having a usage there of a
commercial nature - not necessarily for the sake of commercial return but more
for the sake of allowing us to invest in, and maintain, the facility itself,”
According to the Oz Artz Proposal, if the two story mansion was to
be gradually restored and furnished to its original grandeur, it could also be
opened to the public as a heritage tourist attraction.