The Ballarat Evolve project has stayed true to its name, with artists touting the success of the program, which provides them spaces for lease in the CBD for free.
The project, which started in early 2018, was borne out of an acknowledgement of the increasingly empty Sturt Street shopfronts, and desire to give artists a free space to work and sell their wares.
Artist Kate Wise now has a retail store and studio in the Block Arcade. Originally painting in a "shed out in the country" at her Haddon home, she is now selling the art of other Ballarat artists.
"People like to see some action in here," she said.
"I used to put my work into pubs and galleries and they would sell it. But now I'm taking on that role for other people. It's been a steep learning curve.
"But people are keen to get their work out there, and are delighted there's a spot for it.
"And I'm selling more work that I ever have in the past. I was just puddling along at hobby amounts. It's not enough to run this as a rent-paying tenant yet, but it's better than it has been."
Only last week, board members were scoping out new potential shopfronts in the CBD, and preparing a young Ballarat artist to move into a Bridge Mall space.
Two more artists will be taking studio space in the mall.
Ballarat Evolve has applied for a social enterprise grant application through City of Ballarat, to be approved this Wednesday.
The figure of $20,000 recommended by council officers is a far cry from what the organisation had asked for, which was a contribution of $85,000 for the calendar year.
Board member Paula Nicholson said they've "certainly got quite a bit of momentum now", following a separate Creative Victoria grant of $85,000 last year.
"There's a lot of time needed in interviewing candidates, shortlisting and selecting the appropriate spaces," she said.
"We want to enhance training, upskilling and connecting people. The program isn't just about granting a vacant space, it's about unpinning that with teaching people how to run their own sustainable business."
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