The BAT Centre was established in 1995 with intentions of being an arts and culture community center designed to showcase the art and culture of locals, and to promote their talent and skill. Located in the small crafts harbor alongside the Victoria Embankment in Durban, the BAT (an acronym for Bartle Arts Trust) Centre has helped generate jobs for a number of artists by searching for local talent and displaying it, by sharing essential skills which helps to develop the talent, and by developing markets where that talent can be highlighted to the best possible advantage. As a result of this, the BAT Centre has become a valuable resource for creative people living in and around the city of Durban, the harbor and nearby areas.
From humble beginnings almost fifteen years ago, this brilliant concept has grown unexpectedly well, and now showcases the most exceptional art and performing art available on a daily basis. Numerous careers have emerged from these relatively humble beginnings, such as those of celebrated local musicians Busi Mhlongo and Madala Kunene. The centre currently runs a variety of programs designed to provide the necessary skills and knowledge to those who are artistically or musically inclined. As a result of this initiative, the centre provides possible employment for large numbers of up and coming artists.
One of the featured initiatives is the BAT Centre Artists in Residency (AIR) Program which aims to teach a group of fifty selected students various skills for each year on an annual basis. Up until now the program has been running for more than five years and it has assisted the students in acquiring the skills and know how needed to support themselves through art or music. The program focuses on either visual art or music and music students are provide with the opportunity to delve into various topics such as music theory, world music, general musicianship, keyboard skills, music technology, music business, and the practical study of music. Visual art students are given the opportunity to learn various techniques which include drawing, painting, silkscreen printing, printmaking, sign writing, ceramics and business skills.
The BAT centre complex features a number of interesting attractions and venues, which include the Bayside Gallery, a Showcase for contemporary South African ceramics, original fine art prints and other upmarket craft. The BAT Shop is also located within the complex, and offers a comprehensive selection of African art and craft in particular from KwaZulu-Natal. The shop offers contemporary paintings, prints, various sculptures and a selection of pottery. And perhaps one of the main attractions to the BAT centre is the popular Funky's Restaurant and Bar which combines local cuisine and music in a unique blend of entertainment. There are stunning views of the harbour from the restaurant deck. Live bands perform at the venue Thursdays through to Sundays, and bands range from jazz and rock to R&B and reggae. A small entrance fee is asked but the experience proves to be well worth it.
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