Durban - The old picture this week features the Art Centre at 44 Albany Grove. It was published on March 10, 1984, the building making the news because it was one of the first in the city centre to convert disused office space to residential accommodation aimed at young upwardly mobile city workers.
The caption reads: “The top four floors of the Art Centre in Durban’s Albany Grove has been sold on a share block basis and renovations have begun for the new owner occupiers. Art Centre is one of the first office blocks in Durban to be offered to professional people in this way and the response is said to have been good.”
While it is unclear when the Art Centre was built it was probably the 1950s.
On the website Facts about Durban many remember the Art Centre as being something of a haven for the city’s artistic and musical life from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Gerald Buttigieg writes: “John Drake of the John Drake Trio taught music at the Art Centre in Albany Grove. If you ever passed that building in the afternoons after school, you had a cacophony of sounds as students rehearsed. Simon Kerdachi taught drums there.”
Amina Carini writes: “I started piano lessons with Mr Chambers. when I was 4 years old in 1963. All these lessons were held in his studio at the Art Centre, Albany Grove, next to Gerald Kerdachi. I remember that he had a photo of Sir Percy Scholes (Oxford Companion to Music) on his wall. Sir Percy Scholes had taught him.
“He was a wonderful, dedicated teacher, who did so much to help those who couldn’t afford music lessons, eg the cleaners at the Art Centre who wanted to learn to play the piano. I think we paid R6 a month for 2 children to have piano and theory lessons. I stayed with him until my grade 11 (standard 9) year, even though I had passed my grade 8 piano 2 years earlier. I then went on to learn voice with Madame Davia (also at the Art Centre), and did a B Mus. at UCT.”
Rev Paul Bester remembers taking violin lessons from George Walker of the Civic Orchestra at the centre. Facts About Durban author, the late Allan Jackson, remembers the centre also contained the the ticket booking office for the old Playhouse. He remembers the centre housing speech training centres, and music teachers. The building is home to the Siwela Sonke Dance Studio.
The building is still standing as photographer Shelley Kjonstad’s picture shows. It houses a beauty parlour, a restaurant and an action bar.
The Independent on Saturday