(Midlands Arts Centre), the pioneering Birmingham arts centre, opened its doors to the public on 1 May 2010, following a two year £15 million expansion and refurbishment programme.
Set in the 8.6 acre Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, MAC was the brainchild of local philanthropist John English, the theatre writer and director, and his wife Alicia (Mollie) Randle. It was one of the first of a wave of arts centre developments in the 1960s, which sought to bring the arts out of conventional museums and theatres and into the heart of local communities.
Since its original conception as a centre for children and young people, MAC has grown to reach out to all ages and backgrounds in the community and is widely regarded as the most successful arts centre in the country, with more than half a million visitors a year drawn from across the whole of the West Midlands. It has played a creative role in the early stage of the careers of such artists as Mike Leigh, Tony Robinson, Adrian Lester, Imelda Staunton and Lesley Josephs. It is also home to SAMPAD, the national agency for South Asian Arts.
The original complex of buildings has been dramatically transformed for a new generation: spacious public concourses link the site together, integrating the restored original 60s buildings into a vibrant relationship with brand new spaces. The developments include a major new gallery for the display of contemporary art, the largest in the West Midlands, refurbished theatre and cinema spaces, rehearsal studios, studio spaces for developing new work open to both professional and aspiring artists, expansive foyers and café spaces flooded with daylight, and a newly landscaped terraced garden area with space for open air performances and relaxation. Artists have been involved in every stage of the process culminating in a series of commissions for elements of the building itself including wall and floor decorations, carpet and sculptures.
The original concept designs for the development were created by Doug Branson and Nigel Coates. The West Midlands office of Chetwoods architects have executed the final designs, working closely with community leaders and artists.
Dorothy Wilson, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of MAC, has worked for the organisation for twenty years, inspiring and leading the community and championing the arts as a force for transforming lives. She said: Our audiences are what make MAC unique in Birmingham and an inspiration to everyone who believes in the value of a cultural life. We are proud and excited that, just as Birmingham has reached the shortlist to become UK City of Culture, we are able to open our doors to our community again. We are truly grateful to our major investment partners, Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England for their unstinting support and to the many individuals, companies, Trusts and Foundations who have supported our Capital Appeal.