Introducing Anneke Wolterbeek - Masterton Urban Dream Broker

We are excited to announce the appointment of a broker for an Urban Dream Brokerage in Masterton, helping enable the community to trial ideas for the use of space in the CBD.

Anneke Wolterbeek is Masterton-based and will be supported by a both a Masterton advisory group and the teams at Letting Space and Massey University’s Toi Aria, Design for Public Good programme.


A former secretary and committees’ chair for the Rotary club of Masterton, Wolterbeek has been an active member of the EOC team (Wairarapa Emergency Operations Centre) of Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (REMO) and Chair of the Rotary District International Friendship Exchange Committee. Passionate about community development and sustainability, she is treasurer for the Wellington Region Waste Forum, club secretary for the Wairarapa Beekeepers Club and is the organiser of the monthly Wairarapa Dogwalk Club.

Wolterbeek previously worked for the Greater Wellington Regional Council as a Environmental Policy Advisor in Masterton, and prior to that; in policy and resource planning with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Whangarei District Council. She originally hails from the Netherlands where she has worked in natural resource policy planning and advising. She has also held positions within the environmental, agricultural and science fields working with local government, government ministries and universities. She has worked on sustainable housing projects and Community Neighbourhood committees that were concerned with the service and spatial development of a city.

“I enjoy being able to positively influence and improve the physical and social environment of our community in Masterton,” says Anneke, “and have plenty of work and life experience in other parts of the world as well. I am passionate about life in rural New Zealand and the Wairarapa. This job as part of the Our Future Masterton project is special to me: it is a chance to help the community realise creative ideas with business, property owners, Iwi and council that explore vision for the future of Masterton.”

The Urban Dream Brokerage Masterton is part of a wider Our Future Masterton programme. Following a series of community workshops in 2016, Our Future Masterton is now getting up and running to help enable a citizen driven 50-year vision for the Masterton town centre.

“The nature of our town centre is changing, and this programme recognises that,” says District Council chief executive Pim Borren. “It puts more of the ownership and control of planning for our future in the hands of the full diversity of the people who will inherit it, not just council staff or any particular interest group in Masterton. We very excited to sponsor this project.”

“This isn’t a project about making immediate permanent changes in the Masterton centre," says Letting Space's Mark Amery, "rather it provides a space to trial fun, engaging ideas from the public, who best know their town. It’s an open project, gathering past ideas that have been left unrealised together with the new.”

Reports from the 2016 workshops are now available to view here on the Masterton District Council website, and a Facebook page is a portal for information about the project. Here the public can keep up to date with updates.

Urban Dream Brokerage is a programme Letting Space already run successfully in Wellington, Dunedin and Porirua with council, community trust and chamber of commerce support. There will shortly be a call out publicly for ideas. Urban Dream Brokerage brokers the use of vacant commercial space and public space for innovative ideas generated by the community, encouraging the revitalisation of CBDs and testing out new uses for public areas. The Urban Dream Brokerage service has facilitated over 70 projects over three centres, and has been heralded by property owners, community groups and councils alike nationally in helping revive CBDs. 70% of the 34 properties occupied in Wellington city over the last four years have been re-tenanted after activation.

Position available: Urban Dream Brokerage Masterton Broker

Kia ora Masterton,

As part of the Our Future Masterton programme (information below) we are looking to employ a special Masterton-area based person for a part-time short term contract for service, starting late May/early June running potentially until Christmas.  The deadline for applications is 9am, Monday 15th May, 2017. READ ON for the job description.

Advertised Position: Urban Dream Brokerage Masterton Broker

Are you passionate about Masterton’s future? Would you like to contribute by helping enable your fellow citizens to try out events and ideas that help develop a CBD that feels owned by all as a place for all? Do you have strong diverse local networks and feel you can talk to the local community, artists and property owners alike? This is a role to create exciting new opportunities in Masterton, developed by the community helping re-imagine the use of the different spaces and sites around the CBD through public space events and vacant space projects? The broker’s role is to help facilitate these, rather than actually produce them.

Letting Space is looking to contract a self-motivated person to make a real contribution to the revitalisation of Masterton. Through OUR FUTURE MASTERTON the Urban Dream Brokerage service (currently running in Wellington and Dunedin with Letting Space the Broker will process applications from creative thinkers with dynamic projects for vacant commercial spaces and public spaces. They will be good at inspiring locals to think outside the box and develop their ideas to their potential, work closely with property owners, council and retailers and negotiate to secure sites and spaces under temporary licensing arrangements. They will promote these projects through a variety of media and community channels.

The broker will be strong at making contacts with business people, community groups, artists and the media. They will be good at spreading the word about this programme. This is a part-time contract for service available on flexible terms for $9000.

Application due: 9am, Monday 15th May, 2017

Interviews: Between 9-5pm, 17th or 18th May (please ensure you are available)

Start work: 6th June, reviewed August, ends by 29th December 2017


Job description

Broker Role

The primary purpose of the role is to successfully coordinate the placement of fresh, unique and creative projects and events into vacant commercial spaces and public spaces within the Masterton town centre.

The secondary purpose will be to advocate and promote these projects, helping lead to the revitalisation of Masterton CBD in the eyes of the community, property and business worlds alike.

Your role will involve:

1. Implementing strategies to maintain buy-in from property owners and to promote the benefits of the brokerage.

2. Developing a marketing strategy with assistance from Letting Space and promoting successfully brokered projects to a wide audience.  

3. Promoting the brokerage to the local community, meeting and discussing criteria with potential applicants, following on from the community workshops this programme has undertaken in 2016, which elicited many ideas for the CBD from locals..

4. Liaising with other key stakeholders such as retailers, Lands Trust, arts, community and business groups, Masterton City Council, Chamber of Commerce and key individual affiliates connected to the property industry.

5. Being part of the Urban Dream Brokerage national team, offering each other support and working closely with both Letting Space and Toi Aria: Design for Public Good, Massey University.

6. Liase with the Urban Dream Brokerage Masterton Advisory group, for advice and leads as needed. This group is made up of a diverse body of 20 or more Masterton based people, with strong networks between them.

5. Research, document and maintain a database of applicants and property owners.

6. Develop and write editorial relating to successful projects, and develop newsletters, social media posts or other informative material.

7. Negotiate License Agreements and Special Conditions with property owners, based on existing templates.

8. Arrange property inspections to assess condition of sites and suitability for their use.

9. Coordinate repair and maintenance works and contribute to Property Risk Management procedures

10. Develop initial relationships with further potential funders/partners of the Brokerage.

11. Maintain excellent relationships with property owners and artists.

12. Contribute to communication of the Our Future Masterton programme with the rest of the team (see below).


The Broker will be expected to be able to work independently, but will be briefed and guided by Letting Space Directors / Urban Dream Managers: Sophie Jerram, Mark Amery, Helen Kirlew Smith and contracted through the Wellington Independent Arts Trust (WIAT). Contribution will also be made by programme partners Toi Aria, Massey University, who WIAT have a subcontract with to complete this work.


This is a position for an Independent contractor for an Initial Period of two months (8 weeks) with the potential to extend for up to a seven month period (29th December 2017).

This is a part-time contract for service available on flexible terms with the number of hours per week to be set ($25-$30 an hour - depending on experience). The position is expected to start on 6th June 2017, but may commence earlier if the broker is available to do so.

Selection Criteria

This position involves being able to work across the community, creative, property and business worlds. The successful applicant may have their principal experience in either of these areas, but in bridging these interests will bring an understanding and appreciation of all of them.


1. Passion for the renewal and revitalisation of Masterton  and a belief in the important role that community play as agents of change.

2. Excellent verbal, and written and personal communication skills

3. Good thorough documentation skills

4. Good budgeting and project management skills

5. Confident, dynamic, tenacious and self-motivated personal qualities


1. Understanding, knowledge and appreciation of the business, community and property worlds of Masterton

2. Project management/coordination experience

3. Understanding and appreciating of the role public art can play in urban development

4. Experience/background in real estate, creative and property industries or urban development

5. Experience in negotiations

6. Experience with maintenance/building/property service providers

To apply

Please email the following documents:

1. CV – no more than 2 pages

2. Your written response to all the Selection Criteria

In the subject of your email please include the words: Job Application: Broker  [insert your name]


Email as above or phone Sophie Jerram telephone: 029 934 9749 or Mark Amery 027 3566 128

This position is funded with the sponsorship of the Masterton City Council.




Participate in creating a future Masterton. Through a range of fun activities be part a citizen-led design for Masterton and its CBD. Not just for next year, but for the decades ahead: a legacy to future generations, that young and old contribute to. A collective 50-year vision.

Who are we? We are the Masterton community, but with facilitation and inspiration from an experienced team from Toi Āria: Design for the Public Good, Massey University and Letting Space, an independent public art and urban revitalisation organisation. The programme has been sponsored by Masterton District Council.

The programme includes:

·      Urban Dream Brokerage, calling for innovative new ideas for public and vacant commercial spaces from the community, and then brokering spaces for those that meet the community’s goals as events over 2017. The brokerage has a local broker and diverse local advisory panel.

·      An Our Future Masterton Hub: a hands-on interactive space where you can contribute ideas for the future, comment on others ideas, past and present, and potential areas of physical spatial change in the CBD – through both displays and mini-workshops.

·      Visualisations of potential options for creating new and connected spaces in the Masterton CBD to stimulate further discussion and contribution.

CBDs really flourish through participation and strong leadership from all sectors of the community, not just those perceived most powerful. Following initial citizen contributions in 2016 workshops, our focus is exploring ways to create a well-connected and generous community, strengthen inter-generational connections, and recognise and build capability with tangata whenua. Physically, we have been asked to look to create shared spaces, strengthen connections between spaces, and strengthen connections to Masterton’s heritage and history, and the CBD’s connection to nature.

Get in touch with your ideas and thoughts – they will shape our future Masterton.




Just before Christmas Urban Dream Broker Tamsin Cooper brought into the world a new human light, Hafwen. Congratulations to Tamsin and her whanau.

While she is on maternity leave we welcome Katrina Thomson to the Broker chair in Dunedin. Katrina is a visual artist living and working in Dunedin with a long-standing involvement in the art community of Dunedin, including collaborative curatorial work with the Anteroom Charitable Arts Trust, work for the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival, and helping out or being helped out with a vast array of her own and her contemporaries’ art projects.

Her own interesting practice incorporates sculpture, objects, installation, sound, performance and uses unconventional spaces to create events or installations. She has been on international residencies in Japan, Iceland and Mexico.

Thomson utilises her sculpture skills for art commissions, and in the past worked at Otago Polytechnic’s workSpace where she sculpted the Dunedin City Council’s artisanal street furniture for the Dunedin Warehouse Precinct, helped build Rachel Rakena’s Haka Peep Show commissioned by the Dunedin City Council and Ngai Tahu, and worked on various interactive exhibits for the Otago Museum, Toitu, and museums in Christchurch and Malaysia.

She loves the process of brainstorming, collaborating with others, and supporting creative activity and is excited to have the opportunity to work with Urban Dream Brokerage and interesting new projects in Dunedin.

With her knowledge and skills we're very lucky to have her with Letting Space for a few months.

Tamsin Cooper Wraps Up the Season From Dunedin

Image from Citizen Stylist. Photo: Justin Spiers

Image from Citizen Stylist. Photo: Justin Spiers

Urban Dream Brokerage Dunedin wrapped up the year with it's most fashionable project Citizen Stylist at 23 Princes St. I'm delighted to have helped broker nine diverse projects this year in Dunedin. These have covered many discipines and touched very different audiences: from a live digital mirror in Wall St Mall to an underground performance installation, and a retro games museum that boasted over 3,600 visitors in just 11 days!

These projects could only have happened with the generous goodwill and spirit of our property owners in Dunedin's CBD, and we would like to extend a huge thank you to David Marsh, Justin Stott, Neville Hall, Tim Buchanan and Sarah Stevenson.

UDB Dunedin also has a wonderfully active advisory panel who together have selected these interesting offerings to grace our streets. Thank you to: Cara Paterson, Josh Thomas, Chanel O'Brien, Peter Christos, Ali Bramwell, Vicki Lenihan, Caro McCaw, Annie Villers and Kirsty Glengarry for your huge effort, constructive opinions and precious time this year!

An enormous thank you to the artists and designers who have given their tremendous talents and trust in UDB to create new experiences in the heart of our city for all to enjoy.

From February - April 2017 we happily introduce Katrina Thomson who will be taking over as broker while I am away on Maternity leave.

As a final sparkling Christmas gift from UDB Dunedin we would like to let you know that we are proud to announce we are the recipients of a grant from the Gigcity Community Fund for two new significant digital commissions for 2017. A call out for submissions will be made in late January 2017.

Need for diversity in our cities says Property Council head

UDB project Retro Games Museum in Dunedin. Image: Justin Spiers.

UDB project Retro Games Museum in Dunedin. Image: Justin Spiers.

2016 saw strong economic recovery in cities and towns across New Zealand. But there remain plenty of vacant spaces

Architect, property developer and current President of the Wellington Branch of the Property Council of New Zealand Mike Cole is a welcome member of the Urban Dream Brokerage’s Advisory Board, with a real passion for the city's future.

“Wellington has come a long way from the relatively grey city it was when I arrived in 1982," wrote Mike to us. "Many people have put their heart and souls into making it the creative capital of New Zealand. All of our established companies here, be they in software or theatre, were founded by people passionate about both their particular field and about Wellington.”

"The work of Urban Dream Brokerage creates a win-win for property owners and innovative projects. These vacant properties are often then seen in a new light and leased post-event. Artists have a space for their projects which encourages diversity, a sense of community and public interaction in our cities.”

Urban Dream Brokerage has also been working with property owners, councils and communities in Porirua and Masterton.

"Our town and city centres rely on people being involved to grow their identity and character. As the economy recovers it can be even harder for new ideas to find space," says Mark Amery.

As at the end of 2016, working with 35 property owners, the Urban Dream Brokerage has filled more than 55 vacant spaces with innovative creative projects in Wellington city, Porirua and Dunedin. The majority have led to new tenancies.

“There have been 48 projects in Wellington alone, ranging from a ‘Moodbank’ – a place for Wellingtonians in a disused bank to register their moods – to a community-made giant iceberg, a koha café, an illuminated bike workshop and a “political hair salon”. In Dunedin recently over 3500 people in two weeks went to a Retro Games Museum in George Street, created from one man’s collection that usually fills two houses,” Mr Amery says.

Urban Dream Brokerage brings together commercial property owners with projects. Architect, property developer and current President of the Wellington Branch of the Property Council of New Zealand Mike Cole is a member of the Urban Dream Brokerage’s Advisory Board.

Recent 2016 Urban Dream Brokerage projects include the Lux Festival Light show Glade which attracted more than 5000 visitors to Clyde Quay Wharf, and in November a bold adaptation of a Shakespearean play set in the historic Grand Hall at the Public Trust Building, which has since been taken over by council as an Earthquake Response Centre.

“These uses of vacant space also provides a tangible way for property owners to contribute to the community,” Mr Amery says.

Mapping Wellington Vacant Space Occupation

It's four years since Letting Space's UDB service in Wellington launched this website and we've got a pretty picture to show for it. Our big thanks to the property owners who have joined with us in sharing a vision for a more diverse and liveable city.  34 properties and 48 projects in Wellington city, and counting. The dots on the edge of the frame denote properties brokered in Newtown and Johnsonville.

Read More

Living the Suburban Dream

"And most importantly we have created a place, and an inclusive community where people that were isolated and working alone can call home. Locally." Creating a home for enterprise and collaboration in the suburbs: Kathleen Wright on UDB project Sub Urban Co-Working in Johnsonville a year in.

Read More

What is a Positive Legacy

This month we say goodbye to the wonderful Robbie Whyte as Broker for the UDB service in Wellington, and welcome Laurie Foon. In his farewell blog Robbie writes on legacy.

What is a positive legacy? Is my legacy more positive than John’s?

John Key was so very close to having a Kyle Lockwood designed flag as his timeless legacy. Would that have been a good thing? I think so, it would have made our country look a little naff, and in some way justified the $26million plus spend on the referendum. At least then we could have said that there was a majority - however big or small - in favour of the change. What we have now, is a positive/negative legacy. One that will be marked clearly in left leaning political history as a failure. One that will be ignored by the right. A $26 million referendum that flopped. Beautiful.

I've just stepped away from Letting Space's Urban Dream Brokerage after what has been an incredibly valuable experience for me, both personally and professionally. Having the opportunity to work with the powerhouse team of Mark, Helen, Sophie and Tamsin has been an inspiring time. I have seen TEZA 2015 come through conception into reality, UDB Dunedin thrive as a successful remote pilot, numerous Wellington and Dunedin projects. And I've seen a lot of the interior of the community, social and public art landscape.

What an insight it has been, meeting new people across Wellington, a lot of whom I will continue to build relationships with going forward. This is a big part of my decision to move on: this early part of my career is the time in which I should be taking risks, making mistakes and most importantly making art! So I am making the effort to take some of my own advice - from my last blog - and add value to my own personal practice and Wellington’s art/cultural landscape.

I am going to think about my own words in the context of my own practice: how I “might expand my ideas and engage a public or community in a meaningful way.”

Working on the Urban Dream Brokerage has, for many reasons, been personally and professionally valuable. What has been of the most value to me though, is knowing that I have contributed to the broader conceptual agenda of Letting Space and the Urban Dream Brokerage model.

I amdeeply committed to positively developing the arts industry. Advantaging and championing artists where they might not be able to otherwise. Providing space and a platform to realise ideas that may change the way we perceive our culture, society and the arts. What an incredibly privileged position to have held, a beautiful thing to be a part of.

My legacy might not be large or great, but it is a small contribution to something that IS truly great - the kaupapa that Letting Space works tirelessly to distribute - doing everything possible to increase access to space and build opportunities for artists and community groups to take risks, innovate and present their ideas to the public. However nuanced or radical these ideas might be, having the power to present ideas, for artists to be able to disseminate work is one of the most exciting things that I have been involved in to date. That is for certain.

With all of my fingers, toes and any other possible body part crossed, by the time that you are reading this, there will be another wave of projects being presented through the Urban Dream Brokerage. Thanks to the generosity of property owners and the ambition of the artists/groups involved in these projects, we will have created - for a small moment in time - pockets of a more liveable city. Alternative spaces and projects working on the fringes of our neo-liberal society. A legacy that I have contributed towards.

Maybe a more positive legacy than throwing away $26million dollars? Only time will tell.

Keeping the Fun Park Wheel Turning

Kim Paton's Freestore, 2010. Image: Murray Lloyd

Kim Paton's Freestore, 2010. Image: Murray Lloyd

Sophie Jerram on pedalling like a hamster and an emerging citizen movement.

The other day I got one of those Facebook messages reminding me what I was doing six years ago. It was a post from the final day - a chocolate fondue event in a vacant space - of Kim Patons Free Store. It was a project that gave Letting Space significant traction and, which through boldness, clarity of vision and popularity created a ripple effect on social art practice in New Zealand and in the community of Wellington. The now permanent Free Store next to St Peters in Willis Street is a descendant of this project, receiving commercial contacts and store fittings, and has an ethos of no shame.

For the last six and a half years Letting Space has been addressing both social and physical emptiness: spaces made empty through a lack of ‘apparent’ economic activity.  In 2009 Wellington felt more like a stalled fun park. We became experienced at persuading property owners (sometimes through personal connections, sometimes purer gall) to allow us to open the doors, keeping their fallow ground in the public realm through socially productive activity.

We then created Urban Dream Brokerage to formally legitimate community and artistic uses for the wider conservative property sector. We were hedging the gap between the marketrecommended rental price (prompted mostly by banks) and the creators of ideas who could readily fill the city The argument is that an occupied space is more valuable than an empty one. The cities of Wellington, then Dunedin and Porirua saw this work as something worth supporting on an ongoing basis after several years of trialing a funding model.

If you want someone to join you,” I was once told by a business ethics teacher, “dont just shout jumpfrom the other side of the chasm - build a bridge and go over and get them.

Assuring legitimacy and care, and bridging the chasm between property owners and comprehension about what art can actually effect is core to the Brokerage service. We wanted to work in retail spaces to share the city with more people. We also had a drive to elevate social artistic practice into daily city life.  Imagine a city where artists were as visible as retailers,we quipped.     

Enraged by central Governments reversal of previous progressive environmental policies I sincerely believed then we were on the cusp of severe economic and environmental shocks. And that art played a role in raising awareness and perspective, offering a community of understanding.

Though the world stepped closer to an abyss (we have just passed 400 ppm Co2, when in 2009 we were at 389) this country has not made many moves toward weaning from our systemic addiction to fossil fuels, for example. The reassurance of business as usualhas maintained the habits of the growth-focused enterprises that New Zealand has established during the last 200 years. The fun park wheel must be kept turning.

The retail worm has turned since the 2008 financial slump: Wellington shops are fuller again. I was wrong in thinking crisis would be writ large. Did Letting Space through its Urban Dream Brokerage service just fill the gapand lubricate the pathway for retailers to rapidly move in, we wonder? The art and gentrification process was well documented by Robbie Whyte in his May blog ('Does Gentrification Make Boring Art?') here.

Even if the city keeps the fun park going we are in a different mode. A citizen movement has emerged in Wellington and across the world. Relationships have formed, both in frustration and in joy, that are tangible and non-tradeable. For the last six years we have helped keep Wellington accessible as a place for personal and political expression. Sometimes the gestures might seem small but keeping the city approachable as a place to try things out in has been a significant offer for over 150 communities and artist groups who have applied to the UDB service. Smoothing the way, we have given people the chance to become more adept at working with the public and with business, government and community. To partner up, and trial their work in public. We know weve added a greater range of voices to the city than was part of the polis before.  Wellington would have been a poorer place had we not had projects that we shepherded into spaces such as The Market Testament, Imaginarium, The Beneficiarys office, Moodbank, Peoples Cinema, The Waiting Room, the Hawaiian Cultural Centre and of course, 17 Tory Street.

17 Tory Street deserves several columns in its own right - if you havent been and live in Wellington, keep an eye out for events. It has continued to thrive as an Open Source Community Gallery for over four years thanks to the vision and generosity of the property owner Michael Baker. It has also survived out of the sheer bloody-mindedness of a few, and the offerings of many volunteers: a home to great exhibitions, book launches, talks on capitalism, feminism, mindfulness and Palestine, as well as meetings for local businesses and as a food co-op drop off point. It can always do with more liaisons if youre able to be flexible in your hours and want to help out - see

Later in the year Im heading away to research from Copenhagen. Whilst there isnt an exact equivalent to Letting Space in Denmark, there are many programmes that are sponsored by councils to ensure that community voices are heard in the future development of their cities.

Raumlabor, Gynge, 2012, part of Urban Play, Denmark. Photo: Tuala Hjarnø

Raumlabor, Gynge, 2012, part of Urban Play, Denmark. Photo: Tuala Hjarnø

One destination is the former port town of Køge, which has an active multi-year programme called Life Before the City.”  Here turning a former port into a housing development is more than offering land to a corporation. Urban designers have been brought in to make community gardens, a dirt bike track, and unusual playground spaces, including a huge swing at the beach. Visitors are encouraged to play in this site in order that they might be able to imagine living there. Denmark is rich in the realisation that communities need to be allowed space and time to feel at home. Local councils are willing partners who enable communities to experiment and share their voices.  

The lack of an adversarial relationship between citizens and their local governments struck me as uniquely Scandinavian when I visited recently. It is illuminating to witness the sophisticated belief that the peoplemight actually know what is best for them - once they have been shown respect and provided with sufficient information. It makes me aware how much of my and my friends and colleagues’ lives has been spent wrestling with authorities for a voice in New Zealand.

To many who encounter these urban interventions in Denmark, the experience of play and interaction may be very similar to that of experiencing social art practices, like those we have hosted through the Brokerage. In both cases there is surprise and curiosity about who has placed the piece in situ, or why.

I want to keep aware of the distinctions between art and design.  Urban design is mostly about problem solving. It softens the ground for new living and for controlling behaviour.  Artistic processes on the other hand, tend to be characterised by a unique individual or group vision that may or may not solve anything.  And from witnessing 25 years of art events I know that the commissioning of art can be just as willingly co-opted into social and political scoring matches - albeit in a rather less overt way.

For the next year I want to research more explicit forms of community engagement than we experience regularly in New Zealand and learn about what it means to have a society driven by the needs of its citizens.

Participatory design and community engagement led by Councils is not new in Denmark. It is these practices Im yearning to learn about. From what I have heard the assumption of an intelligent citizenry sets the scene for a level of conversation that we might dream about with our political leaders in New Zealand.

In the meantime, the Urban Dream Brokerage is still open for service in Wellington, Dunedin and another town or two (soon to be announced!).  We keep on feeding the Brokerage flame because we believe it is a strong platform for independent citizen-led city making.  As people with a love of artistic and community practice weve created a unique model, using our own connections into the city.  I hope to share our citizen-led fervour with the Danes as I learn about the Danish way.

Does Gentrification make boring art?

Does Gentrification make boring art?

Residents of Beck Road, E8. Photo: Edward Woodman (1989)

Residents of Beck Road, E8. Photo: Edward Woodman (1989)

After watching British critic Jonathan P. Watts’ recent film on Frieze about the relationship between artists and the co-option of vacant space, I have had a bunch of questions floating around my head.

There Goes The Neighbourhood describes a number of ambitious arts projects and art spaces in London which have influenced, as well as been complicit in, gentrification.

Art and artists often use, and directly benefit from the development of towns, cities and communities. The flipside of urban development is that artists - as well as almost every other community that bring diversity - are pushed out of affordable space to live, work and socialise.

I have been wondering how this might relate to Wellington as the Urban Dream Brokerage, where I work as broker, is working within a facet of this ‘urban regeneration’ industry. I know that in the 90’s and early 2000’s the top end of Cuba St and other pockets provided a hot house for art and creative talent, with studios and flats affordable: germinating ambitious emerging artists, developing our art and culture landscape to what it is today. There are stories of Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Jo Randerson and half of the Wellington art and music industry being active at the top end of Cuba St, Cable St and Newtown around that time. This prolific period was also assisted by the development of other successful initiatives like the Pace Scheme - affectionately dubbed the ‘Artist’s Dole’ - brought in by Labour, the growth of the Fringe and International Festival and spaces like Enjoy, BATS and Taki Rua-Depot, which allowed for the development of artist-run projects across the visual and performing arts. Numerous events, projects and galleries took on alternative project spaces.

Like BATS, Enjoy is still running (about to turn 16!). It is hard to imagine it’s artist run origins as it plays a vital role as contemporary public gallery within the arts ecosystem. So where then, do we go to find the ambitious, experimental, alternative and flat-out risky projects that exist outside of the established institutions?

Each year we see a bunch of student run exhibitions pop up around town. In traditional, alternative and vacant spaces, it is a refreshing few weeks in the art calendar. It reminds us that it is possible for experimental artist run spaces to exist.

Just recently, I brokered the Urban Dream Brokerage’s forty-second project. Yet I still wonder where the rest of the participatory work is hiding. We have just been through an incredible festival season, with the Fringe, the Performance Arcade and the New Zealand Festival. All of which have been excellent contributions to the art landscape in their own way, but I wonder if this festival-centric culture is discouraging or distracting people from generating the really successful, genuine, grassroots projects. The kind of artworks, performances or ideas that are resourceful. Ideas so good, that you want to realise them no matter what. Maybe we need to be less careful with our ideas in terms of imagining them being big budget productions - we need to test, pilot and present these ideas. Take more risks with our work and practises.

A lot of incredible proposals and projects are seeking funding to be realised. Would they happen if the funding isn’t obtained? If the art relies on the funding to exist, then funding makes very little art at all!

It’s increasingly important that as artists we remain ambitious, but also, resourceful. I am not convinced it is more funding or artist run spaces we need. In Wellington Enjoy, City Gallery, 30 Upstairs, Toi Poneke and the dealer galleries all continue to do their thing. It is very specific and refined. What we are lacking in Wellington is experimental arts projects. Resourceful, flexible, site responsive projects. We have such a vast and varied art community in Wellington. I see Urban Dream Brokerage as a keen facilitator and advocate for anyone with an innovative idea for the use of vacant space. We have seen many exhibitions in vacant space - it is now a tried and true model. What we want to see is exciting interactive/participatory work that can really contribute to our cultural landscape, its feeling and energy.

Urban Dream Brokerage is the sum total of its parts. It is a body of work that adds to a successful notion of utilising unused space in our city whilst simultaneously opening access to the arts, for public and practitioners. Making common ground. There are a couple of projects that for me, really exemplify an innovative concept and use of space.

The ‘go to’ for me has been Moodbank. Vanessa Crowe and Sarah Baker’s project, initiated in a former bank in Manners Street and now gaining new incarnations, is an incredibly well developed and thoughtful conceptual artwork that is extremely accessible - because of its slick design and installation, not in spite of. It really shows how a significant artwork can present an alternative system and use in our rather linear thinking neo-liberal society.

Moodbank - Vanessa Crowe and Dr Sarah Baker - Image credit: Gabrielle McKone

Moodbank - Vanessa Crowe and Dr Sarah Baker - Image credit: Gabrielle McKone

Another stand out, Amy Church and Hayley Jeffrey’s Imaginarium. An incredibly simple project that placed cardboard boxes, tape and some pens in what was Whitcoulls in Courtenay Place. All that was required was a little nostalgic creativity.

Imaginarium - Amy Church and Hayley Jeffery's - Image Credit: Garielle McKone

Imaginarium - Amy Church and Hayley Jeffery's - Image Credit: Garielle McKone

And then there was Political Cuts by Barbarian Productions, a very well crafted participatory performance. Free haircuts and coffee in exchange for some thoughtful political discussion. In the bringing together of its different parts this was a significant artwork.

Political Cuts - Barbarian Productions - Image Credit: Gabrielle McKone

Political Cuts - Barbarian Productions - Image Credit: Gabrielle McKone

We have plenty of incredible vacant spaces. So, I arrive at the point of challenging artists, students, community groups, designers -  anyone with an innovative idea, to mobilise.

As well as seeking funding. As well as putting your proposals into the established spaces, think about how you could expand your practice. How you might expand your ideas and engage a public or community in a meaningful way.

Art is provocative right? We should share it. If we rely completely on established spaces we consign art to artefact - we allow it to become disengaged, boring. We need to avoid the gentrification of ideas by focusing on critical, relevant, experimental work. New ideas that push out far beyond the gallery.

Ground Zero: 17 Tory Street

Image: Fourth birthday pot luck, 17 Tory Street, Helen Kirlew Smith

Image: Fourth birthday pot luck, 17 Tory Street, Helen Kirlew Smith

This month is the fourth anniversary of 17 Tory Street, the "open source community gallery" created by Concerned Citizens Collective back in 2012 out of the energy that the occupy movement in Wellington created.

Its success is testament to the support, on the one hand, of property owner Michael Baker and post Christchurch earthquake regulations that have effected the buildings tenancy, and on the other the consensus decision making model (employing Loomio) that has allowed it to be voluntarily managed and pay host to 100s of events of every kind. Over that entire time collective The See Here has shown remarkable installations in a front window exhibition space.

The mandate of 17 Tory Street has been to say "yes to as many as proposals as possible". It has embodied openness and generosity, providing (to crib the expression of Kava Club who have worked from here) "a safe place for unsafe ideas". It has continually inspired newcomers to find ways to replicate its values in their own communities.

We have christened 17 Tory Street Urban Dream Brokerage Project #0 - this recognises that while it predates the setup of the UDB in late 2012 this was the first property Letting Space brokered beyond those it had done so for its own art projects. It also recognises that this was where Letting Space was based for two years, a space that encouraged our own openness to considering new models.

The other Friday we had a pot luck dinner, and while I was setting up a woman came in to pick up her fruit and veges from the long running coop. She seemed to have little else to do with the space, yet expressed in her interest in our slide show an inspiration gained from being plugged in in a minor way to the space. That night at dinner I met two individuals currently involved in running Tory Street who I'd previously only encountered online - generous, full of energy and good ideas (kia ora Lucy and Grace) they were testament to how this space attracts change agents and allows them to grow. Unlike more rigid, hierarchical structures there's a flow here which makes succession arguably easier. Here's to the key individuals who keep that flowing.

Happy birthday Tory Street. For more information on getting involved go here.

Mark Amery

A commission opportunity for artists in digital and physical space.

Biophilia, Tane Moleta, Urban Dream Brokerage, Wellington 2013. Image: Gabrielle McKone

Biophilia, Tane Moleta, Urban Dream Brokerage, Wellington 2013. Image: Gabrielle McKone

The digital environment now connects us in ways that as children we could barely have dream't of. Geographies and landscapes collapse and offer new potentials for sharing and collectivising, while also bringing us together in physical space and connecting physical spaces.

Letting Space through its Urban Dream Brokerage service is pleased to be able to offer creatives everywhere a commission of $2200 per project to create a data-rich project that has a physical node in a vacant Dunedin city space.

The commission follows Dunedin winning the national ‘Gig City’ competition in 2015. As such all projects must involve digital installations that use technology to deliver their outcome.W e have just extended the deadline for two weeks until 5pm 8 September. 

Since 2010 Letting Space has placed over 70 projects in more than 30 vacant spaces over six New Zealand cities both as curators and as providers of the Urban Dream Brokerage. A UDB service was established in Dunedin in late 2015.

Two examples of previous data rich Letting Space or Urban Dream Brokerage projects, accessible online and in physical space are Vanessa Crowe and Sarah Baker’s Moodbank, in Wellington and Auckland (Wynyard Moods) – see - and Bronwyn Holloway Smith's Te Ika a Akoranga.

Read the criteria here and (but of course) apply online here. You don’t have to be in Dunedin but the work must be based physically in a vacant space there.


Festival fever - An Update from Letting Space's UDB

Young Visionaries, The Old McDonalds, Porirua. Image: Robbie Whyte

Young Visionaries, The Old McDonalds, Porirua. Image: Robbie Whyte

Its festival fever time, with the Fringe hitting both Wellington and Dunedin, and the Performance Arcade and New Zealand Festival off the mark in the capital. Diaries are filling, and so are vacant spaces with culture.

In Dunedin the UDB kicked off this year with the wonderful Wee Book and Upcycles projects, receiving lots of local press and support. Go here for images and links.

Over summer in Wellington The Performance Arcade's Performance Lab have been enjoying the use of the high profile former Sandwiches Bar on the corner of Majoribanks and Kent as an office and space for participating artists to test out their new works. A rich and diverse program has been offered for the artists community ranging for work in progress showings, forums and presentations.  Performance Arcade is on now on the Wellington waterfront and is looking really strong this year.

Scratch Naut took over a Wellington City Council space on the swanky Clyde Quay Wharf for the public workshopping of new works last week -  a flagship Fringe event. Those are just two of five UDB projects that have kicked off the year in Wellington with many more in train. You can view them all here.

Our Porirua pilot finished at the end of January having placed 12 projects in four spaces over a six month period. Independent artist spaces The Living Room and Toi Wahine, had a great reception over summer and we're stoked to see the Toi Wahine collective now continue in Hartham Place under their own steam. They're currently taking submissions from young people aged 5 to 18 for an upcoming youth exhibition. Meanwhile round the corner in the windows of the Old McDonalds David Cook and Leala Falesuega's superb project with Russell and Discovery Schools incredibly continues to be exhibited in the windows of the Old McDonalds, 1 Cobham Court. Check it out when passing through.  

Our thanks to the generosity of property owners in Dunedin, Wellington and Porirua for helping make our cities sing.

Introducing Dunedin Broker - Tamsin Cooper

Hi, I’m Tamsin Cooper and I feel very honoured to have been appointed broker for the inaugural Urban Dream Brokerage Dunedin pilot.


I grew up in the small rural town of Waikouaiti where I was fortunate to have had a wonderfully creative childhood. In fact it was my father and his work that first introduced me at just 8 years old to the idea that art can transform and engage the community. He helped set up The Creative Arts Trust who worked with mentally disabled people, recognising creative expression as a basic human right.

I worked away from Dunedin for many years but have come back in the last few to live with my sons Hugo & Louis and we love it here! There is just so much going on for such a small city, it affords an amazing lifestyle and education, with access to a stunning natural environment and an ever inspiring creative community.

I have had my own fashion label for the past 12 years and during the course of my business have worked on several creative collaborations on a national and international level. Highlights have been working with the Royal New Zealand Ballet on several projects and just last month helping manage the first ever NZ/Vietnam Fashion show and competition for design students in Ho Chi Minh City to mark our 40th Anniversary of bilateral relations. In the past I have worked as Community Arts Advisor and Business Development Advisor for Film & Fashion for Dunedin City, managed Planet Media at Otago University, marketed the International Science Festival and worked as the Youth Coordinator for Dunedin. I am a theatre graduate and have a personal passion for performance, public speaking and TV presenting.

I firmly believe that public art can lift the soul of a city and those that reside within it. I love collaborations and working across disciplines to create the truly extraordinary. I welcome wholeheartedly all the knowledge, talent and experience that the Letting Space team and founders have and hope that I can learn much from them to help broker some fantastic projects for Dunedin.

Submissions are now open for projects starting in 2016.

Please apply on-line at: