BALLARAT Evolve Creative Spaces is Tara Poole’s baby.
Chair of BECS Ms Poole set up and spearheads the project of placing local artists rent free into vacant properties in Ballarat’s CBD.
Having trialed the concept in a residential come office space on Sturt Street, converting the building into independent studios where four artists were successfully placed and supported, it progressed to the point where BECS was ready to move artists into retail locations.
After noticing empty shops in the CBD Ms Poole has been keeping tabs on unoccupied locations.
She spread the word to every Ballarat real estate business that the program is up and running, as well as identifying artists that are at the point of creating a business which is self-sustainable.
By putting property owners of vacant shops together with artists who want to retail their work, Ms Poole is hopeful the artists will go on to make money, build a business and possibly rent the shop they are in.
“The intention is it is not a hand out it is a hand up,” said Ms Poole.
Now working specifically with real estate agency Ray White Ballarat, the idea is to evolve the centre of Ballarat into a destination for all the creative industries.
Ray White leasing agent Tracey Holmes said, “I could very clearly see the benefits for my landlords by reinvigorating their spaces.”
“No-one wants to the City of Ballarat not flying high, so we were happy to do something about it.”
Deb Weston and Kate Wise are the first local artists launching the scheme, recently moving into two vacant shops in Block Arcade which have stood empty for some time.
Artists pay their own insurance and utilities, BECS covers the shared outgoings of both shops in the arcade through funding from Creative Victoria.
“With another round of funding for 2019 secured, BECS is aiming to open up at least another six shops this year,” said Ms Poole.
Textile artist, spinner and weaver Deb Weston’s work is tactile, made from repurposed fabric and yarns, it needs to be touched and worn to be truly appreciated.
Ms Weston said moving into shop 7 in Block Arcade as part of the Ballarat Evolve project “is a perfect retail space for me to have my own business.”
“I have a better chance of my business succeeding being part of this rent-free program.”
Ms Weston has a recurring 30-day licence agreement with the landlord, if he finds a tenant he gives her notice and she moves out, in the mean time the shop looks better occupied than empty.
Ms Weston is currently weaving rescued wool from the Bendigo transfer station that was destined for landfill on her Glimarka loom.
“I will make bags, clothes, rugs, pillows and homewares from the fibre,” she said.
She is working on filling the shop with her hand made product as well as conducting weaving and spinning workshops.
Across the arcade in shop 5 artist Kate Wise said “I have been mucking around with paint for ever.”
As a fledgling professional artist with a dream to build a business around her work she is encouraged by the generosity of the BECS initiative.
“It is an incredible opportunity to have a shop front, I feel so fortunate to be in here.”
Ms Wise’s goal is to use the retail space to raise her profile as an artist.
While she expresses her artistic skills in her painting, she is not necessarily expressive when talking about her art.
Painting her canvases in the shop, interacting with potential customers, has given her the opportunity to test and develop her skills in talking about what she does.
“People have come in and said its lovely to see the lights on and some action happening”
She sold a triptych she was painting, before the paint was dry, on her first day of trading.
Commerce Ballarat CEO Jodie Gillett said, “Commerce Ballarat is wholeheartedly in support of the Ballarat Evolve initiative, we believe that this project delivers a double win for the city.
“The project will deliver great space for our growing creative and artistic community to work and display whilst further activating our CBD.”