DESIGN EXCELLENCE: ARTSCAPE

My main focus over the last few blog entries have been on Design Excellence in and around Sydney. This week, I want to look overseas to see what’s happening elsewhere. I’d love to tell you about an initiative in Toronto, Canada, called Artscape.

Artscape is a not-for-profit organisation, founded in 1986 to combat the affordability crisis threatening to push artists out of the city. Their aim is to build relationships between artists and their communities through a variety of art projects on a range of scales. They work alongside real estate development, property management, performance and event services, consulting and knowledge exchange, artistic programming and community animation, and creative entrepreneurship development. Simply put, Artscape “makes space for creativity and transforms communities.''

Over the last 30 years, Artscape has evolved from an affordable studio provider to now becoming a global leader in Creative Placemaking (a term they coined in 2006, and one I’m sure you’re all much to familiar with). Today, Artscape offers a variety of spaces and opportunities for local artists in Toronto. This ranges from studio spaces or co-working areas, to housing artists and their families. Part of their model is making their projects self-sustainable with below market rent for housing and studio spaces. This ensures a thriving artistic community, able to live and work in a comfortable environment with their focus on art making. 

While i't’s hard to narrow down just one or two Artscape projects to highlight what they do, there’s one that I’m really excited to share, still in it’s development stages. The project is Artscape Atelier. 

"Faces of Regent Park" by artist Dan Bergeron. Image credit: A Great Capture / Artscape Atelier.

"Faces of Regent Park" by artist Dan Bergeron. Image credit: A Great Capture / Artscape Atelier.

Atelier is a planned development that takes into account the relationship between an artist and the evolution of a city. There’s so much money spent on large scale planned communities, and the idea behind this major project is to use this money on not only public art, but on the features and assets in the public realm such as lighting, seating, bike racks, etc. Instead of the design, production, etc. going through the regular corporate suppliers, Atelier aims to contract the artists and designers living in the area to create one-of-a-kind piece to define the feel and general vibe of the area. 

Part of the proposition for this development is the creation of an artist collective with it’s participants living on site in affordable housing and providing them with work studios to operate out of. They’ll hopefully form a solid, positive relationship with the developer, with the overall aim is to make the area much more attractive to possible tenants, and also soften any scrutiny to the site that almost comes naturally with any new development. It shows the quality that future neighbourhoods could reach, as well as the quality of outcomes to developers when investing in the local arts. 

But Atelier is just the tip of the iceberg. There are two other projects that I think are briefly worth mentioning, Artscape Daniels Launchpad and Distillery Studios

Artscape Daniels Launchpad at the Daniels Waterfront precinct.  Image credit: Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

Artscape Daniels Launchpad at the Daniels Waterfront precinct. Image credit: Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

Daniels Launchpad takes up an entire floor on the Daniels Waterfront precinct in Toronto. It’s described as a “first-of-its-kind creative entrepreneurship hub” which offers a space to artists, designers, makers, and creatives to come together to connect and learn from each other. There’s co-working studios, programs, and a range of support services to help these artists create a thriving career doing what they love. 

One of the many talks at Daniels Launchpad. Image Credit: Vito Amati / Ryan Emberley / Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

One of the many talks at Daniels Launchpad. Image Credit: Vito Amati / Ryan Emberley / Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

One of the many specialist artist studios at Artscape Daniels Launchpad. Image Credit: Vito Amati / Ryan Emberley / Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

One of the many specialist artist studios at Artscape Daniels Launchpad. Image Credit: Vito Amati / Ryan Emberley / Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

The Commons at Daniels Launchpad. Image Credit: Mauricio J Calero / Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

The Commons at Daniels Launchpad. Image Credit: Mauricio J Calero / Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

The Distillery Studios are similar, but is it’s own precinct taken over by Artscape back in 2001. Fast forward to 2019, and the studios now hold 10 retail studios, 20 office spaces, 3 rehearsal/performance spaces, and 27 artist studios. It’s also given the community a wonderful new tourist destination, and offers long term affordable space for the creative and cultural sector. Being one of their first major projects, it’s only natural that it was a bit of a steep learning curve for Artscape. They learnt 5 key principles that have now become the foundation of their creative placemaking practice to help “generate the most precious of commodities in a development context: unstoppable momentum.”

The 5 Key Principles;

1.The importance of developing a strong shared vision.

2. The power of a critical mass of creative people.

3. The organic dynamism of diversity.

4. The imperative to collaborate.

5. The need to be development savvy.

The Artscape Distillery Studios. Image Credit: Garrison McArthur / Artscape.

The Artscape Distillery Studios. Image Credit: Garrison McArthur / Artscape.

An artist studio at the Artscape Distillery Studios. Image Credit: Artscape Distillery Studios.

An artist studio at the Artscape Distillery Studios. Image Credit: Artscape Distillery Studios.

I’d absolutely love to see something like any of these projects in Sydney! We’re working towards creating areas like this with the announcement of the Bathurst Street Creative Hub, but more could, and needs to be done. As we can see from Artscape, developers have such a large role in making this happen, and while it may seem like a risky investment, Artscape have proven that profitable outcomes are more than possible. With so many developments continuously popping up in Sydney, it would be amazing to see local developers here adopting some of these strategies, and bringing in art consultants early! Art Pharmacy Consulting is exactly what you need to help turn your plans of a vibrate, culturally rich development into reality.

For little bit of inspiration, read more about our projects here, and read a bit more about Artscape here.

Samuel McEwen