A PROGRAM designed to give emerging artists a new home and fresh coat of paint to create with is bringing new life to otherwise vacant buildings throughout the city.
Since it's inception in February 2018, Ballarat Evolve has given a home to artists looking for a space to create and sell their hard work.
Many of the once vacant shops are in the Bridge Mall - which this week has been the subject of the release of a draft masterplan aimed at bringing up to 5000 new residents to the area within the next few decades - are now becoming homes to artists.
The program involves free rental of an otherwise vacant building on one month leases for a maximum of 12 months. It then gives a grant to participating landlords to help contribute towards their own operational costs while the tenant covers the cost of items such as electricity and water.
For Katie Chancellor, who recently moved to Ballarat from Eltham, the program has been a life changer.
"This is a dream come true, it's just completely unheard of in Melbourne having your own solo space," she said. "It's unbelievable and such a great opportunity.
"When we first moved here, I went down to the Art Gallery of Ballarat just to find out what programs were happening here, I had no idea what was going on. They were so helpful and they told me about Ballarat Evolve and I went straight home and applied and was lucky enough to selected.
"My dream is to make it a full-time career and the Ballarat Evolve people were very supportive in that goal, to be able to set up my own gallery and have things up for sale, I'm still pinching myself that the opportunity came up."
Ms Chancellor said she was encouraged to see many other artists making a home in the Bridge Mall.
"I think there's a bit of movement and change here, there's an awesome cafe across the road, there's a real vibe starting to come in," she said.
"I do all my work here, it's my new home, it's full-time every day from 8.30am until about 6pm. You get in the zone."
Ballarat Evolve spokeswoman Emily Smith said there had been 95 applicants since the program was launched.
"There are currently seven Ballarat Evolve tenants in six previously empty spaces in the Ballarat CBD. Half of these spaces are in Bridge Mall," she said.
"We have had far more enquiries than we currently have spaces for, and are always looking for suitable spaces in Ballarat CBD.
"There are still a lot of empty spaces that could benefit from a Ballarat Evolve tenant, and a lot of micro-creatives whose businesses would thrive in a space in the CBD."
Ballarat Evolve works with real estate agents and landlords to find spaces that are suitable for applicants such as shop fronts, studios, offices and rehearsal spaces.
The initial trial phase of the program was supported by Ballarat Arts Foundation, and last year, It received funding from Creative Victoria to continue the program through this year.
To learn more, go to ballaratartsfoundation.org.au/evolve-ballarat
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