Gorman House was constructed in 1925. At that time only it and the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings ( both still on Northbourne Avenue) existed in Civic – the embryonic commercial part of Canberra. The building was designed by John Smith Murdoch who also designed Old Parliament House and the Hotel Canberra (now the Hyatt). You can certainly see the similarities in design.
Gorman House (pre 1927 called “Hostel No. 3′ or the ‘Hotel Ainslie’) served as a hostel for lower ranking public (civil) servants between 1925 and 1972. In 1925 accommodation and meals cost $3.00 per week. Between 1972 and 1981 a number of Government departments were located here. In 1981 Gorman House attained its current status as an Arts Centre (a place where artistic types lacking other employment come along and do arty type things during the day!) and was heritage listed in 2005.
Gorman House Market
Years ago Gorman House market was a vibrant and bustling weekly market (Saturday only). Today it is neither. This does not mean you should not visit. Why should I go? I hear you say. Ok, I’ll tell you.
The market nowadays is still interesting – you come here to “hang out’ with artists, ageing hippies and other bohemian types. I am not sure which, if any, category I fall into.
There are typically a dozen or so stalls of mainly hand made arty type stuff, a few interesting food stalls ( on my last visit I has some delicious fried Chinese pork dumplings) and some form of live music (plus poetry reading on a fortnightly basis) all scattered amongst wisteria clad, undercover walkways, courtyards, and lawns. A very pleasant place to wile away an hour or two over a bite to eat. Leave your worries at the door – chill out. You get the notion that the stall holders are not really that bothered whether they sell anything or not – that’s not the point of it!
I like it and it’s only a short walk from the Canberra Centre, the city’s main shopping centre.
Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS)
The Canberra Contemporary Art Space describes itself thus:
”one of a national network of contemporary arts organisations (CAOs) dedicated to the generation, presentation and promotion of innovative contemporary visual arts practice in Australia. Its program of exhibitions, performances, artists’ talks and publications aims to provide opportunities for artists in the ACT to exhibit their work within a context of current national and international practice.
CCAS has two galleries in Canberra – Gorman House in Civic and Manuka.
The gallery at Gorman House concentrates on new, innovative and contemporary art which will certainly make it not everyone’s cup of tea. My take on modern art is that some of it is good, the majority is not. On my last visit to the Gorman House Market I popped in here for a look and was pleasantly surprised as there were a few pieces I actually enjoyed.
One of these was a display based on “Love Hearts” – pictured alongside. Love Hearts, if you don’t know, are hard, circular shaped sweets (British). They come a variety of fruit flavours and feature a short, love-related message on one side of the sweet. Messages such as – ‘let’s kiss’, ‘I love you’, ‘spoil me’, ‘say yes’, ‘hold me’,
‘spank me’ (whoops) and so on.
This exhibit brought back childhood memories of eating these sweets.
Another item that caught by eye, in a positive sense, was a ‘knitted’ chair with a red balloon like thing on the end of a ball of red wool. Something different.
What, if anything, either of these items (or anything else on show) was saying from an artistic perspective eludes me.
I certainly recommend you pop in for a look if you visit the Saturday market, you might be surprised, as I was. The gallery is also open during the week as detailed below.
Exhibitions constantly change – either check the web-site to see what’s on before you go or be a devil like me and take pot luck!
11am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday
Market Opening Hours
Saturdays 10am – 4pm
Admission Fee – Free to markets and gallery.
The Gorman House prescient also houses an upmarket (aka expensive) restaurant, Sage, which used to be my favourite high end restaurant in the city. Alas, it is that no more… see my separate review – ‘Sage Dining Rooms (Restaurant): What Has Happened Here?‘
Address: Gorman House – 55 Ainslie Avenue
Directions: Gorman House – Just minutes’ walk from the Canberra Centre
othercontact: Email: Info@ccas.com.au
Phone: +612 6247 0188