In the early 1990s, the Barwon Adolescent Task Force commissioned a study regarding the cultural needs of young people within the city of Geelong. As a result, a group of local young people – together with local youth workers – formed a collective called The Venue Project. With support from the Youth Information and Development Association, to further determine the requirements for a youth-specific venue in Geelong.
The recently merged City of Greater Geelong recognised the need for a youth-specific arts and culture centre, and in November 1994 they purchased the former Geelong Law Courts and Police Station Complex from the Victorian State Government.
The Courthouse Project Inc. was established on the 20th of September 1995. The Courthouse Project Inc. was an independent incorporated association, with representation from CoGG, relevant industry and community sectors and young people who managed and developed the vision of the venue.
Further funding came in 1996 from the Community Support Fund of Victoria, which assisted with capital works for the venue’s development. On the 23rd November 1996, the Governor General of Australia, His Excellency Sir William Deane, officially opened “The Courthouse” during a street festival held just outside the Courthouse venue, featuring live music performances, outdoor theatre and other entertainment.
In October 2000, the members of The Courthouse Project Inc voted to change the name of the association to the Courthouse Youth Arts Centre Inc, in order to more clearly reflect the aims and objectives of the organisation and venue. A competition was launched, seeking ideas from young artists for a new logo. The winner, Georgie Bush, spent a week working with sponsor Dzign Visual Communication to bring the logo to completion. The new logo was unveiled by local MP Elaine Carbines and then Mayor, Cr ‘Stretch’ Kontelj, in October 2001.
By 2008, the original building was beginning to show its age, and so $6.5 million dollars was allocated by Major Projects Victoria towards a major refurbishment. The newly refurbished building was officially opened by then-Premier Ted Baillieu in late 2011.
Over the past 20 years, Courthouse Youth Arts has, in its various incarnations, seen an immense amount of activity and creativity, providing thousands of young people with an accessible and exciting venue.