1 February 2024

Illawarra artists - is the junk room just not working as a creative space? Here's a solution

| Zoe Cartwright
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William O’Toole

William O’Toole was a 2023 artist in residence. Photo: Bernie Fischer.

Working from home isn’t always easy, especially if you’re creatively inclined.

Local artists who need a space where they won’t be interrupted by kids, pets, or just the pile of dishes in the sink should apply for Wollongong City Council’s studio residency program.

The program, called Creative Wollongong Studios, has run since 2016 and provides a collaborative and affordable space for artists of various disciplines to practise their craft.

The council has six creative studio spaces in total, all located next to Wollongong’s Art Precinct in the Town Hall building. The spaces are available for tenancy on a 12-month basis for locals at a subsidised cost.

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Xavier Harvey is a contemporary artist whose visual works are scaled up.

They just finished an end-of-year exhibition at the University of Wollongong, and said a dedicated workspace made an incredible difference, especially to artists with larger works like themself.

“It’s quiet, but there are other artists around and a dedicated team that can answer any on-site questions really quickly,” they said.

“Everyone has been really supportive of what I’m trying to achieve with my work. It’s been fantastic to have something local, accessible and near the art gallery.

“I’m LGBTQI so it was important to me that the space be safe and my projects be supported even if they’re not about my identity, and the council accepts a really diverse range of people and projects.”

Xavier Harvey at the opening of their solo exhibition at the University of Wollongong.

Xavier Harvey at the opening of their solo exhibition at the University of Wollongong. Photo: Xavier Harvey.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said the council leased out these spaces as a way to support local artmaking and creative collaboration.

They’ve been used by artists across a variety of mediums, from photographers to podcasters.

“We established these spaces for local artists who wanted to access a more affordable creative space,” Cr Bradbery said.

“Our community has told us that they want Wollongong to be a vibrant and creative city. Council’s Creative Wollongong Studios initiative is just one of the ways we support local artists to pursue their projects.

“If you’re an artist who could benefit from having an optimised space, our studios are a fantastic option that won’t break the bank.

“These spaces also have the added benefit of being located right in the heart of the Wollongong CBD and within our cultural centre — Arts Precinct, IPAC [Illawarra Performing Arts Centre], Town Hall and Wollongong Art Gallery. I encourage local artists to apply to the program and make the most of this opportunity.”

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So does Sky Carrall, a writer.

Three months in the studio dedicated to the South Coast Writer’s Centre gave her time to polish the manuscript of her young adult novel.

“It really held me accountable to do the work and pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“Writing can be isolating, and to see how many other creative people there are in Wollongong and be surrounded by them was really nice.

“When I was there I knew I had to be in the creative zone in a way that can be hard to achieve at home.”

Applications for the Creative Wollongong Studios 2024 program are open from now until Sunday 25 February 2024 on the Wollongong City Council website.

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