Oxford Street a breeding ground for creative success

Oxford Street a breeding ground for creative success

Galleries, artist studios and start-up businesses that opened on Oxford Street last year as part of the City’s creative spaces program have won major national awards and brought tens of thousands of new visitors to the area.

Eighteen cultural and creative enterprises – specialising in everything from jewellery-making and textiles to mobile app development and comedy writing – have occupied a series of Council-owned retail shop fronts and office spaces along the Darlinghurst strip at affordable rates since February 2012.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the creative spaces program had been an outstanding success, with significant achievements across the board.

“Platform72 sold more than $230,000 worth of artworks to buyers on five continents, while members of the Sydney Writers’ Room produced a satirical TV show that has now been picked up by the ABC,” the Lord Mayor said.

“As a result of these and a string of other successes, we have offered all tenants in the program an extension on their lease, allowing them to continue trading in the spaces until December 2014.

“These affordable spaces have given creative entrepreneurs room to try out their ideas and take creative risks, and being in such close proximity to each other has fostered a lot of collaboration.

“Oxford Street has long been one of Sydney’s most iconic and colourful precincts, so it’s only fitting that it’s now home to a new wave of emerging creative enterprises.”

The creative spaces program is part of the City’s long-term plan to revitalise Oxford Street, redefining the area as a hub for arts, culture and creative enterprise. Highlights from the first 12 months include:

  • Platform72 – this gallery and retail space has represented 230 artists (at least half from Sydney) and sold $230,000 worth of artworks, with 100 per cent of sales being returned to the artists. They have also sold local artworks to buyers in the United States, Europe, Asia and South Africa, and been featured in the window of the flagship Sydney store of global luxury retailer Hermès.
  • EngineRoom by Fishburners – this digital co-working community has provided office space for more than 30 start-up businesses, with members winning four major prizes at the 2012 Australian Mobile Awards, securing a contract to provide online ticketing for Openair Cinemas across Australia, and building an online travel insurance program for Woolworths.
  • He Made She Made – this gallery and workshop space has welcomed more than 12,000 people to nine successful exhibitions, featuring more than 200 artists and designers. The founders have also been invited to participate in Design Dubai 2014, an exclusive annual fair showcasing limited edition furniture and design objects from across Asia and the Middle East.
  • Sydney Writers’ Room – this collective housed a team of comedy writers and performers producing The Roast, a two-minute political satire screened on the ABC. This year, the program has been expanded to a 10-minute show for a 40-week season. As a result, the team has outgrown the Oxford Street space and moved to a production facility in Waterloo, making way for a new group of young creatives and journalists working across news and current affairs projects.
  • The Fortynine Studio – this design studio has created a lighting installation for the Light in Winter festival at Federation Square in Melbourne, and collaborated with Laos-based weaving workshop Eastern Weft to produce textile designs for small-scale production.
  • A.R.P. Artists Residency Program – this studio space hosted five resident artists across the second half of 2012, including Seattle-based sculptor Arun Sharma, whose Oxford Street work has been selected for inclusion at Sculpture by the Sea 2013 in Aarhus, Denmark.
  • SCALE Architecture – this local architectural practice was shortlisted for their proposed design for the new National Museum of Afghanistan.

“We’re very grateful to the City of Sydney for giving us this opportunity to showcase the amazing creative talent of so many artists and designers from the local area and beyond,” Juliet Rosser, founder and director of Platform72, said.

“As a result of the creative spaces program, we’ve been able to forge long-term relationships with these artists and help them build sustainable careers – alongside building our own sustainable business model at Platform72.

“We now have big plans for 2013 and beyond, including a series of curated exhibitions by our leading artists, an interactive street game for the International Symposium on Electronic Art in June, and the launch of our online store.”

Following the success of the Oxford Street program, the City is exploring other properties which could become home to emerging cultural and creative enterprises, including a large office and six artist live/work spaces in two buildings on William Street.

A short-term creative spaces register, encouraging pop-up projects in empty Council-owned buildings, has also been created. The first project from the register – an artist studio, gallery and retail space run by Dulwich Hill collective Westsyde Connection – is set to open at 58 Oxford Street, the former home of the Oxford Street Design Store, this week.

For more information, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Keeley Irvin.
Phone 0448 005 718 or email kirvin@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Matt Levinson.
Phone 0427 044 768 or email mlevinson@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au