Arts Centre Melbourne announced late on Sunday evening it was closing its venues to the public and cancelling all scheduled events and performances for four weeks beginning midnight March 15.
The cancellations and buildings closures, a response to the coronavirus outbreak, will run through April 12. Building closures include but are not limited to the Theatres Building (including the State Theatre and Playhouse, among others), the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and Hamer Hall.
“Every ounce of our beings as arts workers is to raise the curtain on the next spectacular performance; ‘the show must go on’ is our battle cry as an industry,” said Arts Centre CEO Claire Spencer in an emailed statement. “To say this decision is counterintuitive and deeply upsetting is a gross understatement.”
“However, based on the rapidly unfolding events of the last few days, the gut-wrenching decision made today ... was made as a precautionary measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, protect our staff, performers and patrons, and to play our role in Australia’s response to limiting transmission.
“We are doing this proactively in the interests of staff and the public. We believe this is a cautious and prudent response in an evolving situation.”
The closures and cancellations follows the Australian government's announcement on Friday advising people not to attend or put on non-essential public gatherings of more than 500 people, including arts festivals, beginning Monday March 16.
The Arts Centre Melbourne car park will stay open over this period, as will the forecourt café, The Protagonist. Those who have tickets for events scheduled over the next four weeks will be refunded automatically.
“We know this is a difficult time for our community and we extend our solidarity to all of those who are impacted, especially artists, performers, and staff whose livelihood depends on a vibrant and fully functioning Arts Centre Melbourne," Spencer said. The wellbeing and support of our staff is paramount. But this unprecedented situation demands an unprecedented response."
For a live list of events cancelled or postponed due to concerns around coronavirus, see Broadsheet's regularly updated wrap.