Darwin Community Arts started life as Brown's Mart Community Arts (BMCA) in the 1970s.
BMCA was synonymous in Darwin with two areas of work: firstly, a diverse range of productions and projects which showcased new artists and partnerships, and projects developing arts within the various communities; and secondly, the actual Brown’s Mart theatre, a venue consisting of an intimate theatre and associated spaces used for performances, workshops, gallery showings and other purposes.
Throughout its existence, BMCA has lived with the tension of being both a service organisation and a production house. This tension is one reason for inconsistencies in stakeholder perceptions regarding the role of the organisation. Other issues contributing to a climate of vulnerability and uncertainty that have affected Brown's Mart historically were differences in understanding of the term “community arts”, confusion about the function of the venue and the reach of the organisation, structural changes to the sector, and the enormously diverse – perhaps disjointed – range of projects and audiences.
BMCA resolved the long-standing tensions and confusions regarding its role in Darwin by adopting a plan for Reinvention through new directions and corresponding new priorities and ways of working. The Renvention Program for 2007 was launched officially by the Hon Marion Scrymgour MLA, Minister for the Arts, on 23 February 2007, at Brown's Mart Theatre.
The launch celebrated BMCA's significant contributions to arts development in Darwin over three decades, including the incubation of arts organisations such as Corrugated Iron Youth Arts and Tracks.
Bong Ramilo, BMCA Executive Officer, highlighted new directions and priorities for 2007 during the launch:
We will be working closely with the Trustees of Brown's Mart to enhance the venue so it becomes the best small venue for multi-arts activities in Darwin. We will continue to promote Brown's Mart as the centrepiece of an arts and heritage precint in the City that will be one of the highlights of the Darwin of the future.
We will continue working with communities we've worked with before; but we will also be working more and more locally with communities in Darwin's suburbs and neighbourhoods, fostering arts and cultural practice at the frontline, at the coalface, at the grassroots, wherever communities are.
We will promoting creative uses of popular and contemporary technologies along with tried and true ways of working. So we'll be creatively blogging, podcasting, you-tubing, and more.
And we will be asking everyone in Darwin to join us as members, to help direct Brown's Mart into the future, and to help make Darwin a place where art is everywhere and where art never stops.
After nearly eighteen months of reinvention activities, including clarifying the distinction between core grassroots arts development on the one hand and managing Brown's Mart Reserve on other, the Board marked the accomplishments of reinvention by changing the name of the Association to Darwin Community Arts Inc in April 2008.