University of Melbourne unveils new arts and cultural program at Parkville campus

Melbourne Uni Arts Precinct Parkville
Sean Car

The University of Melbourne (UoM) is throwing open its doors to the inner-city community to come and experience its new arts and culture precinct on Swanston St, with an engaging first-year program of public shows on offer.

In an exciting addition to the university, as well as the immediate precinct in Carlton in particular, the series of new and revamped arts and cultural spaces offer more state-of-the-art assets to Melbourne’s world-class creative industries.

Located next to the No. 1 Swanston St tram stop, minutes from Lygon St, the precinct includes three main venues: the new Union and Guild Theatres at the $70-million Arts & Cultural Building, the magnificently-restored Art Deco Building 189 and the open-air Amphitheatre.

This 6-Star Greenstar New Build precinct has already been recognised with multiple wins at the Australian Institute of Architects and the 2023 Good Design Awards, and will soon be complemented by a redeveloped Ian Potter Museum of Art just a stone’s throw up Swanston St.

Designed for both students and the wider Melbourne community to enjoy, University of Melbourne Arts and Culture (UMAC) has announced a variety of public shows taking place at its new performance spaces in 2024.



The UMAC department has been created to strengthen the university’s long-standing commitment to the performing arts by presenting, curating, and commissioning arts experiences to “enrich student life and engage the public throughout the year”.

UoM Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global, Culture and Engagement) Professor Michael Wesley noted the significance of the program and experiences for the student and wider community.

“The UoM is proud of its long-standing support of the performing arts community,’’ Professor Wesley said.


The expansion and utilisation of our theatres and spaces on campus allows us to offer incredible local and international cultural performance experiences to our students and the wider community.


UMAC is being led by UoM performing arts director Virginia Lovett, who formerly served as executive director and co-CEO of Melbourne Theatre Company and executive director of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Ms Lovett and her team will curate an annual program of major contemporary works, activating these civic, cultural spaces to the CBD’s north and offer a new destination for arts lovers and artists.

These venues are surrounded by a range of dining options at the university and are just a short walk away from one of Melbourne’s most renowned culinary strips on Lygon St via Faraday and Elgin streets.

Ms Lovett said that UMAC sought to co-present with the city’s major festivals and events to “reinforce the university’s place as a leader and contributor to Victoria’s creative industries and Melbourne’s global reputation”.

“Students will now have the opportunity to experience world-class productions as part of their university life,” Ms Lovett said.

“Together with the long-held tradition of theatre presented by the student union during semester, the annual UMAC program will ensure these venues are operating year-round, embedding them into the life of not only the student but the city.”



Headlining UMAC’s 2024 program is the Victorian premiere of Counting and Cracking as part of RISING from May 31 to June 23 at the Union Theatre.

Since its debut with Belvoir at the 2019 Sydney Festival, the gripping Sri Lankan-Australian family epic has been showered with accolades including eight Helpmann Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Drama and the Prize for Literature.

Counting and Cracking is exactly the sort of show we want to present at UMAC – important, transformative, and community-driven with brilliant storytelling. This is just one of many projects we look forward to welcoming audiences to at the wonderful arts and culture precinct at the University,” Ms Lovett said.

Other productions this year will include:

  • Britney Spears: The Cabaret (April 18 and 19, Union Theatre) starring Christie Whelan Browne as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
  • Pieces (November, Union Theatre), a large-scale co-commission with Lucy Guerin Inc showcasing bold new contemporary dance works.
  • Victorian Opera’s English Eccentrics (July 4 to 6, Union Theatre).
  • The unique song cycle Spinifex Gum (November, Union Theatre), featuring the award-winning Marliya – a Cairns-based ensemble of Aboriginal and Torres Strait teenage singers.

Complementing the 2024 program will be a series of public talks and events which will take place at Building 189’s Market Hall and in the Amphitheatre, including Coffee and Conversations presented in partnership with Readings.

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