Not For Profit: Developing the cultural fabric

05/03/2008 - 22:00

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Western Australian artists foundation, ArtSource, has started working with the City of Perth and the East Perth Redevelopment Authority to gain access to more of the city’s vacant spaces to host artists

Western Australian artists foundation, ArtSource, has started working with the City of Perth and the East Perth Redevelopment Authority to gain access to more of the city’s vacant spaces to host artists.

 

Soaking up urban vibes to stir artistic inspiration has become nearly impossible for WA artists, according to ArtSource executive director Jude van der Merwe, as they are pushed out to the suburbs because of surging rent prices.

 

“There are a lot of spaces waiting to be developed that are vacant; if we get a space for only a year, it’s great for us,” Mrs van der Merwe told WA Business News.

 

Based both in the Kings Street Arts Centre and in Fremantle, ArtSource has a portfolio of 44 studios that are leased to artists for rents varying from $11 to $100 per week.

 

The organisation inaugurated its first artists’ residency on February 21, the Henderson Street Cottage International Residency in Fremantle.

 

Mrs van der Merwe said ArtSource was currently working with the City of Perth and the EPRA to identify more spaces to try to satisfy the 90 artists on the waiting list to get a space to practise.

 

Mrs van der Merwe is positive about the foundation’s relationship with the City of Perth.

 

“There are great opportunities with the new lord mayor [Lisa Scaffidi]; she is keen and has interest in developing the cultural fabric of the city,” she said.

 

While the majority of spaces managed by the organisation are located in Fremantle, Mrs van der Merwe hopes to bring artists in to the city as well, targeting areas surrounding Perth CBD such as East Perth, Northbridge and Highgate.

 

“Artists are concentrated in Fremantle or in the Hills, they are not in the city because no-one can afford to live there,” Mrs van der Merwe said.

 

“Even the art galleries have escaped the city because the rents are too high, or because they can get a good rent out of the space they own. The lack of passage in the city after business hours is also a handicap for those businesses which are open later.”

 

As well as helping artists to find studios to develop their art, ArtSource is an employment agency that provides a connection between artists and art buyers – whether they are businesses, individuals or local government commissions.

 

ArtSource produces a newsletter for its database of 500 artists seeking work, which includes new commissions and work opportunities.

 

It has experienced an oustanding growth in the past five years – there were 106 opportunities available through ArtSource in 2002; in 2007 this rose to  290.

 

The organisation hosted a record $6.5 million of artwork sales and an additional $5 million of work related to the arts sector, such as managing a project or running a festival, in the past calendar year.

 

“The economic boom certainly had an influence on the growth of the demand for art,” Mrs van der Merwe said. “However, it also has to do with a growing sophistication reflected in state governement policies, such as Percent for Art, which provides a framework for local governments to consider public art in their developments.”

 

Change brewing for Mooba

 

COMBINING a simple idea with a calculated entrepreneuirial flair has led the owners of Wembley-based cafe, Mooba, to grow their business concept with the opening of a new store in Subiaco.

 

Mark Dillon and his wife, Shannon Hamilton, say they knew nothing about the hospitality industry when they decided to open a cafe in December 2006.

 

Just more than a year down the track, the success of Mooba Wembley, located on the corner of Jersey Street and Cambridge Street, has prompted the couple to open a new venture as part of the Railway 18 development in Subiaco.

 

“The property developers who look after this site [Ph3 Property Group] have their coffee here, and they approached us to open a Mooba in one of the stores of their new development,” Mr Dillon told Gusto.

 

While Mooba Wembley is a kiosk alongside the shopping centre, the Subiaco store will be housed within the Railway Road development.

 

Mr Dillon says they aimed to keep the Mooba Wembley concept as simple as possible – all the drinks are served in a takeaway format but the customers are welcome to sit at a table or on the steps covered with cushions.

 

As Wembley locals, Mr Dillon and Ms Hamilton were aware of the need for a community hub to be open in the area to provide a meeting place for local families and shoppers.

 

“My wife and I never worked in that industry before. We really wanted to do it and we found a coffee company, Five Senses, which would roast our own blend,” he says.

 

“We created Mooba in a blank space; it was the spot where everyone used to congregate to smoke.

 

“Now we sell 400 to 500 cups of coffee a day here.”

 

Initially, Mr Dillon feared that stepping into the hospitality business would come with overwhelming challenges, including difficulty in sourcing staff.

 

“We started off in December by hiring five staff members, quickly moved to six; we now have 10 staff and there wasn’t any turnover in that period,” he says.

 

Mr Dillon, who works in the export business, and Mrs Hamilton, an artist, maintained their professional lives while operating the cafe, deciding to run it under management and encourage their staff to take ownership of the business.

 

“They [the staff] don’t have to have an ogre owner on top of them...Mooba is as much theirs as it is mine,” Mr Dillon says.

 

The couple have tried to involve all the staff by implementing their ideas and stepping back during busy service times.

 

The owners even join the queue, with the other customers, if they want to buy a coffee.

 

To avoid too long a wait in line, however, the cafe introduced an SMS service so customers can order their coffee by text message.

 

The popular service now deals with a minimum of 60 SMS orders a day.

 

“At the cafe, our customers would still order when they are told that there is a 40-minute wait, but we wanted to reduce the visual impact of having a crowd of people waiting there,” Mr Dillon says.

 

He says  up to $200,000 was spent setting up the cafe, but expects it will be easier and cheaper to reproduce the concept in a similar area next time, although he is not expecting to franchise Mooba any time soon.

 

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