If you’re looking for a creative and handmade Christmas present in the last rush to the big day, then Ballarat Evolve has a pleasant new surprise for you in the Block Arcade.
Ballarat Evolve Creative Spaces Inc, the rent-free arrangement placing makers and artists in empty retail and commercial spaces throughout the city’s CBD, has placed two artists into shops previously vacant in the Ballarat Central arcade.
I’ve got this dream, maybe I could do this?Deb Weston, Ballarat Evolve artist
In one space the Swedish loom of Deb Weston is clacking away rhythmically, turning out woven blankets, cushions and all sorts of clothing, while in the space diagonally opposite the art work of Kate Wise is displayed.
“It has been a highly eventful six months,” says Tara Poole, chair of the newly formed Ballarat Evolve Creative Spaces Inc.
“We established a trial location in a high profile location on Sturt Street, placing four practicing artists into studio spaces and supporting their growth and development. We’ve created a new board, who are refining the processes of selection, training and education.
“We’ve forged great new relationships with real estate advisers and agents who understand the value of what we’re trying to achieve. And today we’re celebrating the successful move of these creative industries into the Block Arcade, which we hope will help kickstart a creative hub – rejuvenating the centre of our city.”
Estate agent Tracey Holmes of Ray White has been integral to the process of negotiating spaces and liaising between artists and landlords, explaining the intricacies of lease agreements and maintaining the new shop spaces.
“The benefits are there for the landlord, if they take the time to think about it,” said Ms Holmes.
“Evolve has helped us to qualify good tenants, who are likely to make the transition to full time tenants. That was a fairly lengthy process. Then it was a case of us sitting down with the landlords to talk about what the benefits are, and how we need to reinvigorate the city; to give people a reason to come into town.
“We were able to talk to this landlord (of the arcade) about how we need to bring people back into the city, about offering them something new and something different, and already you can see the people passing through here today, stopping and looking. Everyone wins in the long run.”
Deb Weston’s workspace and store is dominated by the new Swedish loom she’s installed. The loom has existed in one form or another since prehistoric times, but the art and skilled craft of creating a fabric with it has become rarer with the advent of automation.
Her feet dancing over the treadles, Ms Weston is thrilled to bring her skills into a commercial space. After starting to learn spinning, an acquaintance gave her a small loom. She says she gradually increased the sizes until she bought her current machine.
“My work has evolved since I made my application,” she says.
“When I first applied it was a very small idea that’s grown into such a big idea and prospect for me that this could be my living. It’s one of those things where – ‘I’ve got this dream, maybe I could do this?’ And you randomly say something to someone, and all of a sudden in six months you’ve got this.”
We’ve forged great new relationships with real estate advisers and agents who understand the value of what we’re trying to achieve.Tara Poole, Ballarat Evolve chair
Tara Poole says the artist’s excitement, as well as apprehension at starting a small operation, is feeding their creative and entrepreneurial development.
“They are keen to be established before Christmas, to try to make the most of seasonal trade in the centre of town,” says Ms Poole.
“Both artists will bring vibrancy to the space, with Deb operating a 1.5 metre loom and working with recycled materials to make clothing, soft furnishings and new materials for sale. Kate will be painting within her shop as well as selling her visual art pieces.”
Ballarat Evolve is due to complete its trial period at the end of December 2018. The Ballarat Arts Foundation played a formative role in the initiative from the outset, and will continue to provide advice and guidance as well as participate on the board of the newly incorporated association.
New members of the board include the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s Julie McLaren, artist Tas Wansborough, Ballarat Foundation chair Paula Nicholson, Tara Leaf and writer Libby Drew.
The Ballarat Evolve program has secured a grant from the Victorian State Government to fund the group’s continuing activities into 2019. The Victorian Government’s Creative Spaces has agreed to support the infrastructure of Ballarat Evolve Creative Spaces Inc, funding the establishment of an administrative process for assessment of artists and creative organisations, and assisting in the development of training courses on business management, copyright and protections.
Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh says the Ballarat Evolve initiative is incredibly exciting.
“It’s a big message about Ballarat’s skill,” Ms McIntosh told The Courier.
“There’s obviously business people in Ballarat who love the arts and can see the need to do something with the wonderful artists we have who have been hidden behind closed doors. Buddying up with the real estate agents, looking at vacant spaces, thinking about how they can be better used… when you walk into this arcade, it’s outstanding the difference and vibrancy, the intrigue – you can see it in the faces of everyone walking in the arcade.”
“We wholeheartedly support Ballarat Evolve and applaud its vision to support these creatives. It’s a vision which goes to the core of our Creative City Strategy by activating and regenerating spaces across our city – which will in turn give rise to a stronger economy, increased visitation and greater engagement in the arts by the community and other sectors."
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