Peter M Howard ::

The Space Race

28May2009 [myth]

In which a city needs to make space for its artists

Creative Sydney's The Space Race panel was supposed to be about "solutions to building a creative city from the bottom up". There were some interesting points raised, but unfortunately, not enough focus on the solutions part. I'd also hoped there'd be more about Place, but it tended toward space-is-expensive complaining rather than particularly productive interpretations of the use of space.

But there were some hopeful discussions. James Winter, of Queen St Fraser Studios (the corporate-sponsored artists' space out of the old breweries in Chippendale) had the most interesting perspective, as someone who's actually been able to sustain an artists space. He made the point that, "as artists we're entrepreneurs". Penelope Benton and the Red Rattler Collective are trying a new artist and activist space out at Marrickville, designed deliberately as a legitimate, safe space, which sounds a worthy experiment, and hopefully sustainable too. Justin Levy spoke of an interesting initiative they're calling Dead Spaces, Living Artists (which I can't find an online presence for), designed to bring unknown artists to unused spaces — the Fringe Bar Markets at Paddington are one of theirs.

Lawrence Wallen, from the school of design at UTS, pointed out that most students, though they really want to engage with the city's culture, just don't have the means, and for the most part are stuck in the suburbs. This is unusual compared to elsewhere in the world where students move out for uni. But the cost of space in the inner city is prohibitive to students and to artists. There's a danger, then, that the city becomes stagnant, without its space being used creatively.

In a sense, the whole Creative Sydney concept is designed to try and stir up some creativity, and remind us that there are some really creative people and things going on in this city. That is, of course, a good thing. And when artists can be entrepeneurial enough to sustain their creativity, it's even better. But one gets the impression that some artists would prefer to stay struggling artists. A little too much introspection, perhaps.

...Will be back to the MCA tomorrow for Generation Slashie, on working across artistic fields, and Behind the Screens, featuring local studios and filmmakers. Both look, potentially, a little more up my alley.

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