Costs, planning laws biggest challenges for artists

Artists and creative professionals named rising property costs and complex planning laws as their biggest challenges at a round table hosted by Jamie and Jenny Leong, MP for Newtown.

The professionals, from the fields of visual arts, writing, dance and theatre across the Inner West, met at Parliament to share their frustrations finding suitable spaces to work.

Speakers included Penelope Benton from the National Association for the Visual Arts and Craig Lyons, a geography researcher from the University of Wollongong.

As well as the complicated processes, the artists cited the high costs of fulfilling their legal obligations to rent commercial spaces and the difficulties of working within short term leases. The rezoning of light industrial spaces for residential development is also destroying places for artists to undertake their work.

“It makes blood come out of your ears” said one participant of planning processes.

The round table participants cited Sydenham Station precinct and Carrington Road, Marrickville amongst spaces where artists and light industrial businesses could co-exist, finding important synergies. But encroaching residential development, rising rents and gentrification mean such spaces are becoming increasingly inaccessible.

Many of the representatives from creative businesses and organisations said they depended on proximity to the city to exist, with moving to city fringes not an option.

Jamie Parker said:

“It was very inspiring to be surrounded by such creative and innovative people, and hear about the challenges they face as artists and makers in the inner city.

It’s clear that more action is needed to facilitate spaces for artistic excellence, which is why Jenny Leong and I have initiated work on a Sydney Arts Spaces Action Plan to remove some of the obstacles we’ve heard about today.

It’s state government that can do the most to change these rules that are restricting and undermining our creative communities.

We’ll be seeking meetings both with the Minister for Arts and the Minister for Planning to impress on them the need for changes to state laws to improve planning and the need to secure more affordable and suitable arts spaces in our area.”

Jenny Leong said:

“We need to put the priorities of artists and arts spaces at the heart of state government decision making, not simply expect artists to fit into the boxes the state and local government expects them to squeeze in to.

Arts and creative industries need the freedom to innovate, collaborate and create – we are committed to making sure this can happen.

“To hear directly from artists, arts workers, producers, creatives and venue managers about the challenges they face was powerful – the frustrations and obstacles they’re dealing with are real and need to be addressed so we can support creative communities to thrive.”

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