Some good news has filtered out of Brisbane’s cultural sector after the devastating floods. Despite many iconic cultural institutions being sited right on the river bank, most seem to have survived any serious and lasting damage.

The State Library, the Performing Arts Centre, Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art and Brisbane Powerhouse are all located in highly vulnerable positions on reaches of the river. But it appears as though the damage has not been major and that priceless collections have been safeguarded.

A statement released on Facebook yesterday by the Queensland Art Gallery stated that “GoMA has experienced some damage to the lower level of the Children’s Art Centre, River Café and some back-of-house areas. There is no artwork on this lower level. Water did not come into gallery spaces of the Qld Art Gallery, but the car park was flooded. We expect the recovery and clean up to take several weeks. Both galleries will remain closed until further notice.”

The State Library was also able to move collections to higher levels. Ironically, one of the collections moved was the Library’s extensive holdings of materials about the 1974 floods. Many were concerned for the fate of the State Library’s youth media space, The Edge, which is on a lower floor. However, an Arts Queensland spokesman told Crikey last evening that the computers and other electricals had been moved, although there would obviously still be damage. The State Library will also be closed until further notice.

State librarian Rory McLeod told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this week that staff at the library have been quietly preparing for the flood for weeks and have moved collections out of the basement and ground floor.

However, he was reported to be concerned that days of prolonged power cuts amid Queensland’s summer humidity could result in damage to books and other collections.

“All of us have got climate-controlled repositories where they are stored which will retain their ambient temperatures for a while, but after a few days there may be some humidity,” McLeod told the agency. With power slowly being restored, the library’s collections look to be safe.

The Queensland Performing Arts  Centre also appears to have escaped any serious damage to it key venues, despite the car park tunnel and Green Room entrance being completely inundated.

Iconic Brisbane theatre and arts space Metro Arts escaped the floods that affected lower parts of Edward Street, as the water did not quite reach 1974 levels.

The floods and power cuts have left a ghostly scene. In an email to supporters, Multimedia Art Asia-Pacific (MAAP) festival director Kim Machin wrote that “the central business district of Brisbane is still blacked out, as is South Bank where at the State Library the Burchill/McCamley geodesic dome solar panel art work is the only light you can see in the darkness”. MAAP is based in South Bank, where its Grey Street offices have been taken over by the South Bank Corporation itself as the clean-up begins.

There is more concern over the status of the Brisbane Powerhouse, sited inside an old electricity generation building on an exposed reach of the river at New Farm. Crikey was not able to contact the Powerhouse for comment this morning, but given the flood levels in other parts of New Farm it is expected that some of the lower-lying parts of the Powerhouse complex and the car parks will be affected.

Crikey decided not to ask the Arts Minister for comment, deciding that she might be too busy. Who is Queensland’s Arts Minister? None other than Premier Anna Bligh.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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