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A home for the arts: The City of Sydney fosters cultural hubs

Chloe Wolifson

City of Sydney’s innovative accommodation grants are a unique way to get your organisation up and running.
A home for the arts: The City of Sydney fosters cultural hubs

The Walter Burley Griffin Incinerator. Image courtesy City of Sydney. 

While Sydney is brimming with creativity, it can sometimes be difficult for creative practitioners and cultural initiatives to find a foothold in the harbour city. As Cultural Projects Manager Marni Jackson explained, ‘The City of Sydney recognises that it’s a challenge for arts and creative practitioners to find affordable spaces in the city. We also recognise the value to the community of having artists, cultural organisations, creative enterprises, and creative activity operating at the heart of the city and contributing to its flavour and life.’ 

Through its policies and strategies, including the Cultural policy and action plan adopted in 2014, the City provides opportunities for artists and creatives to live, work, and operate in Sydney. Under the Accommodation Grants program, The City of Sydney leases community facilities, or space within facilities, at no charge or at a reduced rate. The grants support community groups, organisations and services that encourage community development, enhance social, cultural and environmental programs and services, and address community opportunities and needs. 

Available facilities include a diverse range of buildings and spaces that vary in size, location and function. Depending on the program, retail, administrative and studio activities can be accommodated. Jackson explained that some properties ‘may have been used for civic use in the past but are no longer needed operationally. These go back into community use for cultural or social uses.’ This includes four properties being offered as part of the next round of Accommodation Grants which opens on 6 July.  ‘All of these four could be available to groups who are undertaking creative practice, or want to benefit the community through creative and cultural uses,’ Jackson said. 

The Walter Burley Griffin Incinerator on Forsyth Street in Glebe is one such property. Ideal for an experienced group of up to 20 people operating a community-focused service, the flexible, open-plan 70 square metre space could be used by a community, cultural or environmental organisation. The distinctive modernist building sits in landscaped surrounds close to public transport on the Glebe foreshore, overlooking to the north the Anzac Bridge and Blackwattle Bay. 

In the heart of the same suburb, on St John’s Road about 400 metres from Glebe Point Road, sits the heritage-listed Glebe Town Hall. Organisations with a community focus will be excited by the opportunities presented by the spaces here. A 36 square metre workshop suitable for wet and dry use, and a 10 square metre storage room, are available for an organisation intending to engage with the local community. Activities can be undertaken in the Hall’s three different facilities that can be booked for use. With other current accommodation grant tenants in the Hall including the Glebe Community Development Project and the Glebe Early Childhood Centre, there is great potential to bring artistic or other cultural activities into the mix.

South of the CBD another Town Hall is opening its doors. The Waterloo Town Hall, a two storey Victorian-Italianate building on Elizabeth Street, houses the Waterloo Library. Here, two 36 square metre spaces are on offer for those keen to engage with the Library’s public programs. With potential to be transformed into offices, writing workshop spaces or learning labs, these spaces in this landmark building present an exciting opportunity for literature-based or other cultural programs working in tandem with the local community. 

Another wonderful opportunity to engage with local community is on offer in a harbourside setting. The Abraham Mott Activity Centre, located close to the Walsh Bay arts precinct on Argyle Street in Millers Point, has available a multi-purpose 61 square metre space ideal for workshops, art classes and meetings, and is accompanied by office and storage areas. If you can see your organisation using these as a base for programming events for the Millers Point community in the Activity Centre, this site could be for you. 

Jackson explained that the benefits of the Accommodation Grants Program are felt by the community as well as by the creative and cultural practitioners themselves. ‘One of the things the programs allow people to do is test ideas. They may want to do one thing, but once they start they realise there’s benefit to doing things a different way, collaborating with different people, bringing a different model into play.’ 

Applicants to the Accomodation Grants Program can apply for up to 100% rent subsidy. ‘Because they’re in a subsidised space and don’t have demands to make really high rent for example, there is more room to experiment and test. The benefit to that process has been very important to some of the people who’ve participated in our programs over the years. You can adjust what you’re doing along the way, try out new things and benefit from that.’ 

So if you or your collective have a great idea, and all you need is a space to get your dream off the ground, make sure you check out these four spaces on offer through the City of Sydney’s Accomodation Grants Program – you never know, you might come across your new creative home. 

Applications for the next round are open from 6 July, and close 3 August 2015. 

For more information, visit the City of Sydney Accommodation Grants Program. 

For property inspection times and to book viewings, visit the following links:

The Walter Burley Griffin Incinerator, Glebe

Glebe Town Hall, Glebe

Waterloo Town Hall, Waterloo

Abraham Mott Activity Centre, Millers Point

About the author

Chloe Wolifson is a Sydney-based independent art writer and curator who works across artist-run, commercial and public domains.