The Arts

Jun 3, 2011

Hey latte-lovers, art works just as well on the fringe

A down-at-heel suburb attracts artists due to its low rents and ample work space, for instance in former warehouses or lofts. Arts institutions priced out of the inner city should move to the suburbs.

Ben Eltham — <em>Crikey</em> arts commentator

Ben Eltham

Crikey arts commentator

“Gentrification imperils Fitzroy art institution,” The Age stated earlier this week. The building that houses prominent Fitzroy contemporary art gallery Gertrude Contemporary is for sale, and there is no guarantee that the institution known to everyone in Australia’s visual art scene simply as “Gertrude Street” will be able to remain in Gertrude Street.

6 comments

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6 thoughts on “Hey latte-lovers, art works just as well on the fringe

  1. Gavin R. Putland

    Better still, why don’t we require, as a condition of approval, that redevelopment proposals must massively increase the quantity of residential accommodation, so that the competition keeps rents affordable? Why don’t we even make grants and tax concessions for property owners contingent on adding to the supply of accommodation?

    Because the property owners who dictate policy want accommodation to be scarce, in order to prop up the rents and prices of their existing portfolios!

  2. Robert Merkel

    Because, Gavin, the Save our Suburbs crowd starts screaming about views, overcrowding, “character of our suburb” etc. etc. etc and the developers end up spending a couple of years in VCAT before anything gets built.

  3. Michael James

    Not to mention the arts supremos tend to be very well paid individuals who despise people who live and work out in the ‘burbs.

    I know of a major gallery, in government ownership, that supports indigenous arts, school student art, a diverse set of exhibitions featuring installation arts and such, state government ministers often attend exhibit openings but the lords and masters of the state gallery and such, while invited every time, rarley if ever respind, let alone attend.

    They get invited, but can’t even deign to reply in the negative.

    This particular gallery’s crime? It’s not located in a 5 km radius of the CBD.

  4. Holden Back

    Ah, the rodomontade of cliches, inaccurate generalisations and anecdotes about who is interested in art and why! Nothing will stop that no matter where the arts are housed.

  5. Olivia Greenwell

    Ben I agree that we shouldn’t just be supporting arts institutions that are established in the inner city, that we should look beyond to all the amazing happenings in suburbs like Footscray, preston, Coburg (I’m Melbourne based, apologies for my response being Melbcentric). I also agree that the quote of Patricia Piccinini’s is not the strongest argument for assisting Gertrude Contemporary to remain where it is.

    However there are a number of issues your article overlooks:
    – Areas such as Coburg and Preston are not immune to gentrification, in fact I’d suggest that first home buyers, and certainly a large portion of the art community would now struggle to afford to live in these suburbs (and these suburbs are already testing the ‘inner city’ definition)

    – The further they are pushed out the less accessible the suburbs they’ll be living in. I’d suggest Glenroy is a good example of a still affordable suburb in Melbourne’s north where artists and first home buyers are moving in. Despite two train lines (in different zones) Glenroy is not a short journey from the city and is not easily accessible, by public transport, from nearby northern suburbs. This time of affordability is a great issue to our artist community, not to the people who work at NGV who apparently need galleries to be accessible, or need there to be an inner city gallery hub.

    – Without the types of amenities that make living affordable it is not fair to suggest that it is a good thing to push the arts further out for the rest of the community’s sake.

    – Development isn’t a bad thing; apartment buildings going up on every block in Melbourne’s inner city suburbs have become essential. With this type of development it is inevitable that some institutions will fall victim, or that some members of the community will be forced out. It is inevitable that over time the face of a suburb will change, this is inevitable anyway with changes in demographics moving into suburbs.

    But this doesn’t mean to say that we should just accept that those people, who were instrumental in making a suburb appealing and ‘liveable’ in the first place, be forced to live and practice further out, we shouldn’t just accept that influential institutions should go altogether or be forced to relocate.

    There does need to be some level of support for individuals and institutions so that our inner cities don’t become a bland collection of high rise concrete apartment buildings with corporate advertising on the sides. In the case of the privately owned building of Gertrude Contemporary perhaps support in purchasing of the building is the only option. But in the case of gentrification more general greater requirements should be imposed on developers to ensure the face and culture of a suburb are not entirely eradicated in the course of gentrification.

  6. Son of foro

    You can’t have art without trams. Any fool knows that.

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