Mimi Art’s new home will be built from native string-bark cut from the Aboriginal owned and operated Gumatj saw mill near Nhulunbuy. Picture: Supplied.
The NT Government’s plans to convert the 1.3 million square kilometres of the Territory into an exhibition 65,000 years in the making is starting in Katherine with the complete re-development of Mimi Aboriginal Arts centre.
Withstanding two torrential floods and more than 40 years old, Katherine’s only Indigenous owned and run art centre is set to be demolished in March.
Taking its place will be a “fresh and vibrant” $2 million centre built to showcase art from the world’s oldest culture on earth.
“We’ve been operating for more than 40 years out of the same building. It is tired and it is old and it is falling apart,” he said.
“We’re the first cab off the rank for the arts trail program, so it’s a big deal – it pays off for what we’ve been doing for so many years.”
The centre has long been home to a handful of resident artists – so moving locations, away from the risk of flooding, was out of the question, Toppo Architects director Jo Best said.
“We had to make it work,” she said. “We saw the line of where the last big flood came through, right up the walls, so all the materials chosen are able to be submerged, the electrical fittings are higher on the walls, and there is space high up for storage of art in the case of another flood.
The floors, walls, structure and trimmings of the new centre, expected to be completed by the end of 2021, will be built from timber from a remote saw mill in Arnhem Land. The Aboriginal owned and operated Gumatj saw mill near Nhulunbuy specialises in cutting logs of stringy-bark, known for its environmental resilience and longevity, and renowned for its adaptation to stress.”There will always be a threat from flooding, but the fabric of the building will be very hard waring,” Ms Best said.
The design stems from months of consultations with the artists, staff and board of the art centre, which won the Chamber of Commerce Customer Service Awards in 2019.
“As it stands [the building] is very internal, it turns its back to the street,” Ms Best said.
“This new building is about presenting a new street address and giving the gallery a prominent facade.”
High ceilings will allow for art which has been kept in storage to be dusted off and showcased, while a large veranda will provide room to spill out of the inside spaces.
“We have been very conscious of the site in terms of thermal conditions,” Ms Best said.
“We’re using the climatic conditions to work for the building. We have designed around how to capture the prevailing breezes to cool spaces.
“The roof line is designed to create the most amount of shade and ventilation.
“Mimi Arts has been waiting four decades for this, so it will be great to see them provided a purpose-built building rather than see them squeezed into a space that was never intended to show art.”
The NT Government invested $2.5 million towards Mimi Arts and Crafts as part of its $30 million Arts Trail Regional Gallery Extension Program.
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Chansey Paech said a construction tender is now out to rebuild Mimi Arts and Crafts, to be awarded in late March and setting in motion a commencement date of April.
“The Arts Trail Regional Gallery Extension Program is an important investment to develop the Arts Trail,” Mr Paech said.
“We’re developing leading cultural attractions across the Northern Territory to maximise visitation, develop new and distinctive experiences and firmly position the NT as a cultural destination.”