We've got that after-event fizz following the Urban Dream Brokerage on Friday night. It must be the sign of a timely event that when you look back it appears like a no-brainer of an idea. Artists, suggest your ideas to the property sector. Property owners, come up with creative ideas for the city. With Wellington City Council keen to get the engagement around the City’s 2040 strategy we were ready to go.
It’s 18 months since we launched our first series and this website and during this time we’ve held two ‘Urban Dream Brokerages’ (not to mention the matter of seven public art projects). The huge difference between the first and the second was the level of intrigue and interest from the property sector in attending the event. Whether it’s because 15 months’ more recession has created an appetite for alternative uses of commercial space or whether Letting Space has got more traction over this time we’re not sure but the deals were much closer to being secured this time around.
About 200 attended our ‘Dragons Den’ on Friday night. Councillor Ray Ahipene Mercer gave a generous mihi and we passed over to MC Mark Westerby who with groups like Cuba Creative and theatre shows like Apollo 13: Mission Control is constantly thinking outside the square as a creative producer. Here he is with our 'hooter'.
First up were four selected artist pitchers (bios on the artists can be found in our last blog). Tim Barlow’s Fearless Speech Lane reinvents speaker corner as a place for curated free expression complete with political food stalls, a take on Dalai Llamas famed gardens and a digital lounge below the State Opera House.
Bruce Mahlaski and Bev Hong envisage a time when land will be exchanged for goods, recalling the reverse when The Wellington Company sailed into town and gave goods to Maori in exchange for their land. It's an idea that brings Wellington’s past, present and future into a vacant commercial space.
James R Ford appeared dressed in a Ninja Turtle Costume (Donatello to be precise) with a proposition to express the Higgs Boson particle through the placement of 16 turtles (representing the 16 elements of the particle) on turf in a glass fronted Wellington shop space.
Finally Shona Jaunas on violin and Natalia Mann on harp looked to the beneficial laws of France, which allow artists to take over vacant spaces and not be evicted over winter as an introduction to their concept for artists to capture and create sound and visual projections that are brought together as a harmonious whole in a vacant shopfront. Jaunas and Mann won the popular vote from the audience for most promising on the night, taking away a koha kitty of $189.
Next up were our property visionaries, who had provided questions and feedback to our artist pitchers, ranging from enthusiasm to almost disbelief.
Mark Westerby then unveiled our artists panel- Heather Galbraith, Eve Armstrong and Rob McLeod - who would help turn the tables on our property critics.
Chris Gollins of Colliers (who has just brokered the deal on the “sale of the Century Hotel” ) got a lot of respect (and the award for catchiest title) for his pitch ‘Tour de Foyers,’ suggesting a scheme property owners work harder on the art in the building’s foyers, and not just pretty pictures. Liz Mellish came with a bundle of thoughts: the first the very real put out to artists to contribute to the revitalization of the space that holds remnants of the original Te Aro Pa in Taranaki Street, the second the revisiting of graffiti as an artistic expression in the City and the third, the revitalisation of dendroglyphs or tree-carving. David McGuiness from Willis & Bond pitched a tremendously polarising plan for auctioning art and allowing passers-by to ‘text a bid’ much as we can ‘text a park’ in the city at present.
Once we announced the audience vote for the winning artistic pitch (Shona and Natalia’s music work had captured most hearts), the after match party was held over the road at the empty Lara Parker store in Cuba St (managed by Cook Strait Holdings). We's sorry we could only invite a very small number of people due to its tiny size, and focussed on bringing together the pitching artists, council peeps and property owners. Matilda Fraser, the very able Massey art student who has been interning with us, used the opportunity to bring fellow students’ works into the shop for the night, and weekend. Thanks to Tilly we ended up in this way sneaking in another art project before we turned out the lights
We’re rapt that the concept of creative and artistic uses of space is really gaining traction in Wellington. How we formalise the process so that more artists and property owners can take advantage of this is yet to be established but we’re working on it. Watch this empty space.
This Saturday we’re presenting at Te Tuhi in Auckland as part of Resonating Spaces at 2pm, a forum looking at the interaction between art and urban renewal. It’ll be a chance to download. Love to see our Auckland friends there.