TRIAL LOCATION 1 – 716 STURT ST
The initial trial of the Ballarat Evolve program commenced at a commercial location that had been used as a medical practice for some time. The space was a large 1920s Art Deco house that was been converted into medical rooms and was deemed perfect as a shared studio space.
This space was not open to the public, instead was activated as quiet studio space to permit each of the artists to focus on their body of works.
The owner kindly offered the building as a trial for 6 months, with an option to renew. Agreements with the artists commenced at the end of June 2018 and completed at the end of December 2018 when the owner successfully sold the building.
Four tenants were shortlisted to fill the space, and the impact of the trial was immediately apparent. The individual artists have all distinctly benefited from the provision of the studio space.
Abstract painter, Steve Sedgwick’s move into the studio coincided with an exhibition of his work at The Lost Ones Contemporary Art Gallery. This show was hugely successful, in part due to the exposure he had received from moving into the building.
Deb Weston’s fibre products have been placed in retail environments in town, netting her an additional income from her work.
Kim Anderson was one of the signature artists for the Biennale of Australian Art. Her move into the studio space permitted an increase in the size of her works and allowed her the time to complete a major body of work in time for the exhibition.
The artists directly benefitted from their time in the space, and the landlord also spoke highly of the process.
THE RENEW NEWCASTLE EXPERIENCE
Renew Newcastle was established in 2008 in response to the deterioration and decline of the area in Newcastle’s CBD in and around Hunter and King Streets. The second half of the twentieth century saw many changes to Newcastle, among them the decline of the CBD as a retail centre of choice for people from Newcastle and the wider Hunter Valley. As society evolved, cars became more common use and large shopping centres started appearing in Newcastle’s suburbs,resulting in fewer people visiting the CBD for their shopping.
The Renew project enabled a process that brokered access to the vacant spaces at heavily reduced rates in a temporary and ongoing capacity. Artists and creative enterprises use and maintain the buildings until they become commercially viable or are redeveloped. There are hence benefits to the owners and tenants as well as the wider community. Once started, Renew was able to quickly match up tenants with vacant spaces, with 40 creative enterprises and projects having been initiated by the end of its first year and, by the end of 2009, 25 formerly empty spaces were being utilised. The increase in occupancy of buildings in the Newcastle city centre was soon accompanied by an increase in visitors to the CBD, particularly the Hunter St mall where the first projects were targeted. New commercial tenants were soon opening and while some were short-lived, overall the occupancy rates of spaces in the CBD have risen enormously since that point.
While the cities of Ballarat and Newcastle are different, they equally share remarkable similarities. The concept of opening up empty commercial spaces is not a new one, and Renew Australia has gone on to prove this point across the country since the Newcastle initiative.
Ballarat Evolve seeks to learn and network with similarly sized cities, to take the best from each and grow our own personal experience.