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10 Jul 2018

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Bringing the arts to life

By Sean Car

When you look at all of the wonderful institutions that make up Southbank’s world-class Arts Precinct, you can be sure that Martyn Myer AO and his family have had something to do with them.

A descendant of Melbourne’s renowned Myer family, which is responsible for establishing the Myer retail chain, businessman and philanthropist Martyn has continued his family’s rich legacy of giving back to our great city.

There is no greater example of that than our incredible Arts Precinct here in Southbank, for which the Myer family, as long-term lovers of the arts, has played a significant role in shaping.

From the National Gallery of Victoria, Hamer Hall and the State Theatre through to Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC), Malthouse Theatre and Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), the Myers have helped to make it all happen.

Chairman of science company Cogstate Ltd, president of the Myer Foundation, deputy chancellor of the council of the University of Melbourne and MTC board member, Martyn’s list of achievements is endless.

However, at the launch of the University of Melbourne’s transformed Stables in Southbank in May, he received special acknowledgement for his contribution to the project – marking one of his proudest achievements to date.

“The university chose to recognise my contribution by naming the arena in the Stables after me. It’s a great honour,” he told Southbank Local News. “It’s a good example for other potential donors to the university of what can be achieved.”

The state government’s recent landmark $208 million commitment towards kick-starting the vision set out in the 2014 Arts Precinct blueprint, puts the amazing contributions of Martyn and others in perspective.

The effort of those at the University of Melbourne to keep this vision moving at its centrally-located Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), will prove instrumental in helping realise the grand vision for Southbank.

When the new Melbourne Conservatorium of Music opens in 2019 and council completes its transformation of Dodds St and Southbank Boulevard, Martyn said Southbank would be home to the “world’s best arts education campus”.

“In order to get governments and donors to move you’ve got to have a really big idea and here that is creating the world’s best arts education campus in the middle of the world’s best arts precinct,” he said.

“What was proposed for Southbank meant the university’s position, being right in the middle of the precinct, was a key component of that vision for the Arts Precinct.”

“We felt that there seemed to be a lot of reports being done but nothing being done! So we thought let’s get on our bandwagon and let’s do to our campus what is proposed for the whole Arts Precinct.”

While he and wife Louise reside in nearby South Yarra, his contribution to the arts and long association with Southbank comfortably makes him an honourary “Southbanker”!

He told Southbank Local News he often travelled to the Arts Precinct on his scooter and, between himself and wife Louise, they loved all things theatre, opera, visual arts and music.

He said that while arts ran in his family’s blood, he admitted that he was the least “artsy” of the bunch! As an engineer and businessman, he continues to demonstrate his own love of arts by helping to make it all happen.

“I like working with government, the university and philanthropy and putting all the pieces of these complex puzzles together and seeing the outcome,” he said. “It’s a fun thing to do. I’m passionate and it’s very rewarding. In five years when the precinct has been operating for a few years and the city has finished their works it will be great.”

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