It took a fair bit of deliberation before Melbourne-based artists Gabrielle de Vietri and Will Foster could settle on a name for their new Collingwood collective. In the end they settled on A Centre For Everything, simply because that’s just what it is.
“Through mixing and matching titles, we realised that ‘A Centre of Everything’ was the most appropriate and descriptive and the most exciting, because we could imagine such a huge scope of things that could be included in the program,” says de Vietri.
In the lead-up to each fortnightly(ish) event, held in a secret Collingwood location, A Centre for Everything releases an illustrated teaser poster displaying a Venn diagram of three seemingly unrelated ideas. Origami, samosas, clubs. Show and tell, Ethiopian cuisine, verbal geography. Neighbourhood mapping, pesto, la révolution surréaliste.
“It’s the framework that allows us to throw things together in a more experimental way,” de Vietri says. “And there is this cross-pollination between disparate things,” adds Foster.
For example, the next meeting on February 13 is themed ‘Bat Talk, Night Soup and Romance’, which combines a bat expert leading a tour of Yarra Bend, a cup of warming soup and a reading of romantic works for Valentine’s Day.
Though the ideas behind the Centre are big, the events themselves are focused on the intimate group of people who attend. The events are not only social, but collaborative, with attendees interacting, sharing and ultimately contributing to the project.
Foster says that the point is “creating that kind of environment that will inspire people to suggest other things”. The whole process is natural, somewhere in between a friendly classroom and a dinner party. People seem engaged without being pushed, something the founders describe as “alternative forms of education” or even just “skill sharing”.
The final mystery of the project is its location, which is revealed only in booking each specific event, although it is always based is Collingwood.
Even though neither of the founders are native to Collingwood, or even Melbourne, they both believe that the city has the right feel for this kind of project. “Location is really important," de Vietri says. "Because we are situated in this northern Collingwood community, part of the project is building this local community. It really is aimed at the people around us, whether they are artist professionals or just people next door or people down the road.”
Though the project has been an almost immediate success, it is still evolving. Each event reveals new things to consider and new ideas to play with and the founders reckon that this is the best part. “We quite enjoy the process of this project because it’s so open,” Foster says. But the real success of the project is in the formula –combining ideas and people and locations in infinitely interesting ways to create a unique experience each time.