Proposed Forest Hive Community Arts Centre

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Check out this article about the proposed Forest Hive Community Arts Centre in the Mail Ranges Trader! 

There is a hive of activity from locals in proposed performing arts centre in Sassafras.
By Derek Schlennstedt

A hive of activity surrounds new plans to build a performing arts centre in Sassafras at the Sherbrooke Community School.

The aptly called Forest Hive Community Arts Centre/Cultural Hub, aims to provide an ‘anchor point’ for visitors to the area, both local, national, and international, as well as providing a performing hub for schools and communities in the hills.

Plans for the new structure were unveiled on 15 March; to community groups, residents and interested parties, including Member for La Trobe Jason Wood, and Liberal candidate for Monbulk John Schurink.

Andrew Fillip-Gautier, the instigator of the project said the aim was to create a space that everyone could utilise.

“The vision is to have a space for all the community to come to and have access too, and make it affordable.”

“After 5pm in Sassafras there is no reason to stay… we have this wonderful B&B industry and service industry but there’s nothing to keep our visitors interested.

“After a day or two they depart, just imagine if we have fantastic performances, these businesses could package them up with dinner and show.”

“There are so many different aspects and offshoots to it.”

These comments were reiterated by the President of the Villages of Mount Dandenong Business Association, Mr Dion Bright.

The proposed arts centre, designed by ARM Architecture, is expected to incorporate a 300 seat performance hall.

A recording studio, computer laboratory, lighting studio, and other amenities would aslo form part of the much needed teaching facilities.

Designs show that the main hall will resemble a ‘vineyard formation’ in keeping with the Sherbrooke Community Schools’ philosophy of inclusiveness and community.

That hall will also be able to cater to suit a range of performances from single student musicians through to medium ensemble and large scale choir performances.

Speaking to the Mail about the proposed arts centre, Liberal Candidate for Monbulk, John Schurink, said that he could relate to schools and groups who have to move off the mountain to find a location.

He said that he could see the hive becoming a centralised hub for schools and community groups in the hills area that require a close, affordable location to hold performances.

“Right now any performing arts or anything in that sort of space currently has to go off the mountain, whether it’s another school or residents for the Christmas carols in December, all those sorts of activities have to go off the mountain to find a facility,” Mr Schurink said.

“For carols on the mountain we (the CFA) have it at the Ferny Creek Reserve, and it does rain a bit up here, but if we get rained out then there’s no other option.”

At the unveiling of the plans, La Trobe member Jason Wood said he was impressed by the designs and strongly supported the need for a performing arts centre along the ridge of the Dandenong Ranges.

“The design work here is absolutely incredible, and I’ve heard a few people say we hope this is going to happen … I like the word hope, but let’s just make it happen,” Mr Wood said.

“I am 100 percent behind this; I want to make this an election commitment.”

Mr Wood also said that it’ll also give local arts performer an outlet in the hills, and “rather than our performers going into town, the good city folk can come out here and see them on home ground,” he said.

The design plans have also integrated a community fire refuge into the building.

The name Hive is derived from its design which represents that of a Beehive; and like a hive, Andrew hopes it will be a vibrant location filled with busy people.

“The vision we have is that it has people in it, it’s vibrant, and it’s also a teaching space … people can come, learn and perform in a theatre,” he said.

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