Wellington pioneers the free use of commercial space for public art
A new agency that promises to enliven Wellington City by utilising vacant space for no cost has opened in the capital. The Urban Dream Brokerage is a pilot project that connects creative ideas with empty city sites, including office and retail spaces.
With retail vacancies at a record high prior to Christmas 2012, the brokerage has been welcomed by property owners. By providing space free of charge, artists and other innovators are able to experiment with new ideas, while property owners can gain exposure for their buildings.
The Brokerage is staffed by co-ordinator Helen Kirlew Smith, an experienced arts manager. The pilot is funded by Wellington City Council’s Public Art Fund and has been established by Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery, who have gained experience working with building owners through their public art programme Letting Space.
The brokerage is part of a wider international movement to utilise spaces in cities that have fallen fallow to assist in urban renewal (see www.http://urbandreambrokerage.org.nz/blog/ for examples).
“Wellington City is one of the first places in this region to see the potential in the creative utilisation of empty spaces, and we predict it won’t be the last”, says Helen Kirlew Smith.
The Urban Dream Brokerage itself operates from a vacant retail site at 19 Tory St. The building owner is happy to support the UDB project until the space is leased.
Since opening just before Christmas, the UDB has received 14 written proposals for a variety of creative uses, some of which will be brokered into vacant buildings or public land early this year.
Proposals for creative use of space are welcome at any time until April this year, at which time the continuation of the UDB will be assessed. “We are hoping that the freedom to use these spaces will attract and sustain exciting and innovative projects in Wellington and lead to the further enrichment of the city as a whole,” says Kirlew-Smith.
The UDB has an advisory panel to vet and support the proposals that come, comprising property owners, artists and WCC officers. For more information and criteria see