Ballarat Evolve began as an investigation into the sustainability of linking private businesses with micro-creative enterprises and artists, and permitting access to empty retail spaces throughout the regional city's central business district - focusing on fast tracking the city's evolution.
The initial trial phase was supported by Ballarat Arts Foundation from its inception in February 2018 through until the end of the calendar year. In late 2018, Ballarat Evolve received a grant from Creative Victoria to continue the work into 2019.
Taking learnings from the hugely successful Renew Newcastle and Renew Australia initiatives, and relying upon the advice and guidance of Arts Law Centre of Australia, Ballarat Evolve was borne out of genuine interest from local traders. Interested groups started to notice the changing profile of the inner city streets, and a private initiative was undertaken. Volunteers logged empty retail environments in a selected area of the CBD, noting those buildings highlighted with a 'For Lease', 'For Sale' and those which were clearly empty. This was matched with attitudinal research of 220 individuals living, using and working in the heart of the city.
The Ballarat Arts Foundation was approached with the concept to support a trial, investigating the feasibility of placing creative arts practitioners and small businesses into identified empty retail environments. Ballarat Arts Foundation, as the city's primary grant-maker to the creative and arts community, agreed to support the project's trial till the end of December 2018. The Ballarat Arts Foundation assisted with assessing applicants, and coordinating the profiling matching of applicants to suitable locations in conjunction with the landlords and their representative agents.
Ballarat Evolve is supported by a range of different private bodies, including real estate agents Ray White and legal teams offering their services pro-bono.