c3 Contemporary Art Space
June 2008 – March 2021
Years of programming: 13
Artists exhibited: 2,000+
View the c3 exhibition archive
The Abbotsford Convent Foundation’s c3 Contemporary Art Space was established in June 2008 and housed in the basement of the main Convent building as the precinct’s first permanent exhibition space. Featuring an expansive exhibition space encompassing six rooms, the gallery fronted onto the precinct’s beautiful heritage gardens, providing the perfect environment for a community-driven, contemporary art space.
Incorporating elements of publicly funded galleries and that of an Artist-Run Initiative (ARI), c3 presented outcomes offered by public and institutional galleries, while being firmly anchored within an artist-run philosophy. The gallery space was built on a shoestring, using donated materials, free labour and hands-on assistance from local businesses, Convent tenants, volunteers, friends and family.
The gallery supported an open, nimble and active curatorial vision. This vision encompassed a wide array of contemporary and experimental creative practices, community-based projects and performance/sound works that demonstrated new approaches towards the production of art and ideas.
c3’s mission focused on delivering high-quality, curatorial programs; providing advocacy and professional development for artists; and presenting engaging projects for diverse audiences. The program was values-driven and inclusive, building creativity into the daily lives of its community. c3’s unique location encouraged participation and inclusion amongst the arts community and general public, enabling significant audience development opportunities for artists and curators. It was a safe and open space for exhibiting artists and audiences to intersect, creating a lively place of discussion and shared experiences.
The concept of ‘open-ness’ as a central curatorial action allowed trust and generosity to flow through these conversations between artist, audience and organisation. c3’s curatorial strategies were built by and for the community. It was important to create conditions for a safe space to engage in conversation, and remove hierarchy where possible. Artists at any stage of their career and audiences of any experience were treated equally.
c3 was a core program of Abbotsford Convent and managed by Founding Director, Jon Butt, with long-term curatorial governance from a Curatorial Committee of practicing artists and arts specialists. On the ground the work was supported by an incredible community of volunteers and interns and in 2016 Katie Paine joined the Convent team to support the work in the gallery. This group of people guided the ambitious growth of the gallery which became a nationally recognised contemporary art space.
The Convent’s complex history, strong architectural and green presence, its scale and diversity of visitors, and its events and activities as a contemporary place for arts, culture and learning, set the context for the c3. We are incredibly proud of what we achieved in terms of providing meaningful support for our artists, dedicating a generous space for audiences, and in building such an expansive and activated community full of passion. It has been a great honour to dream big and fulfil these dreams as a custodian of the gallery space and its community of artists, art lovers, dreamers and visionaries… and as contributors to the Convent’s beautiful, ever evolving story.
– Jon Butt
In 13 years, c3 presented the work of over 2,000 artists across more than 1,800 projects and attracted almost half a million visitors, making it one of Australia’s most visited Artist-Run Initiatives.
While the physical gallery closed in 2021 due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the c3 exhibition archive is available and one of Australia’s most comprehensive image-based catalogues. The archive demonstrates an incredible output of artistic labour within the contemporary art scene of Melbourne and beyond during this time. It is an incredible resource available to everyone for research and enjoyment. View the c3 exhibition archive.
The c3 website was selected for preservation by State Library of Victoria collection and can be viewed, in perpetuity, on Trove here.