Lesson 4: Openness and Creativity

The foundation of our work is creating the conditions in which artists can thrive: affordable, safe, secure, appropriate space. Our live-work spaces include RGI, affordable rental, and ownership live/work units. These factors allow our tenants to spend more time on their practice, build their practice and increase their productivity (cf. Artscape tenant Census 2012). But it is also about creating spaces and communities that are welcoming, supportive and open to a diversity of creative practice, risk taking and exploration: spaces that provide sufficient flexibility and freedom and which create opportunities for creative collaborations without enforcing or policing them. We are trying to create spaces that support, rather than inhibit, creativity.

In fact, it turns out that in order to achieve these kinds of results we also need to take an approach to facility development that embraces this sense of creativity, out of the box thinking, risk taking and silo busting. This is an approach which embraces:

  • Diversity: An openness to the diversity of partners that might come around a project and inform its evolution. Artscape Wychwood Barns, for example, brings together community, cultural and environmental interests to create an entirely new idea of what a community cultural hub might look like – and which can attract diverse sources of funding, investment and support to make the project achievable as a result.
  • Silo-Busting: We see ourselves as an intermediary, brokering deals and fostering relationships to align the needs and interests of diverse stakeholders from across the old siloes of public, private and community to develop win, win, win partnerships.
  • Tenacity: In the complex context of creative placemaking projects, with multiple stakeholders, place-based constraints and limited resources, it is hard to gain traction and make real progress unless there is a clear understanding of what you are ultimately trying to achieve together. We start a project with an idea and no money – getting to “yes” through this process has allowed a project like Daniels Spectrum – Artscape’s cultural hub in Regent Park, to take flight.
  • Creativity and Flexibility: We have to be prepared to constantly innovate to achieve our project visions.  This can include our approach to funding and financing our projects (for example, our first use of the sale of below market commercial space at Artscape Youngplace), as well as  the governance models that we put in place in different projects (for example, the joint venture model used to develop Daniels Spectrum). It also means being flexible and creative about the way in which we develop affordable space and space that supports collaboration – for example the development of Flex Studios at Artscape Youngplace.
It is much easier to work in this way when you are unfettered from the constraints of local government, and for this reason, we believe this work is best undertaken by independent not for profits which have the nimbleness and flexibility required, combined with a fierce commitment to the sector.
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