The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre: A Multicultural Hub

The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre: A Multicultural Hub

Photo obtained from Casula Powerhouse Facebook

The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) is a true snapshot of its diverse Liverpool LGA demographic.

CPAC Director, Craig Donarski, acts as a passionate advocate for not only showcasing multicultural expression but also in making the arts accessible for everyone.

Stemming from his own experiences growing up in a family of Polish immigrants as well as his impressive career in the arts, Donarski has strived to elevate the CPAC to a true multi-arts centre since starting as Director in 2016.

“The arts was my lifeline when I was in Blacktown, Tamworth and Wollongong,” he says.

“The way local Government and councils provide artistic and cultural experiences for people had been something really close to my heart, so the chance to be in the position to give back and hopefully throw cultural lifelines to other kids like me was so exciting.”

Liverpool and it’s neighbouring LGA, Fairfield, are the two most multicultural and diverse local Government areas in Australia, making representation an integral part of CPAC.

One current exhibition, ‘Pulse of the Dragon’, showcases the combined works of five Chinese-Australian artists and five Chinese artists.

Due to the centre temporarily shutting its doors due to COVID-19, the exhibition moved online in the form of an interactive virtual tour, including interviews with the artists, in both English and Chinese and with an online bilingual catalogue.

‘A Familiar Place I’ve Never Seen’ is another recent exhibition that combines Persian calligraphy and photography to share the dreams of Western Sydney residents, in particular those of immigrants and refugees.

One striking statement from an interviewee starts with “I dreamt I was an educated man.” and goes on to describe his feeling upon waking up of both loss and hope for a new future in Australia.

Photo obtained from Casula Powerhouse Facebook

CPAC has much more on offer than just its exhibitions, with community collaboration being an important part of the centre, as seen through its many cultural festivals.

These festivals celebrate even the most current waves of immigrants and gives a voice to various specific communities, with the annual Shanasheel Iraqi Cultural Festival being one  such example.

We really like to do things that bring it all together, where there’s music, dance, food, film, an exhibition, so that you’re really letting people into the totality of a culture rather than just one little slice of it.

Donarski goes on to explain the importance of multiculturalism in the centre through the fact that only 16.6% Liverpool LGA residents identified as Australian in the last census.

While another 14% identified as having English heritage, it still means that almost 70% of residents are culturally diverse, with Donarski listing a rather large ‘shopping list’ of the other cultures that make up the other 69.6%.

Following English heritage, the next largest was Italian heritage, making up 6.7% of residents, a culture which is celebrated on a monthly basis through the CPAC’s free monthly Italian Film Series.

Photo obtained through Casula Powerhouse Website

“They’ve really made the place their home, they’re used to coming once a month, having dinner here and watching a film in Italian,” explains Donarski.

Donarski, together with the Director of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Sydney, came to the decision to still stream the films online, encouraging all usual participants to grab a nice bottle of Italian red and watch the films together while apart.

Although the usual dinner will be missed, the decision to move online is just another example of how CPAC has persevered through the restrictions of COVID-19.

“We’ve learnt so much through this whole process and we are not planning to stop,” he says, “Whether its our chef doing online cooking classes, our gardener telling you what to plant at this time, whether it’s interviews with artists, whether it’s public education programmes for kids or art classes – they’re all there.”

To book your admission to the Italian Film Festival, click HERE.

Alesia Bilotta

Alesia is studying a Bachelor of Communications with a major in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. She is passionate about experiencing other cultures through food, travel and the interwoven stories in each. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]