Matching projects to spaces

There is no right answer to the question "Who are the right kind of people to take up these spaces?" The needs of a small city like Newcastle are very different from those of a country town, or of an empty suburban school. 

While an out-of-town site might benefit from clustering many similar things together and giving a small group of people a reason to go out of their way to get there, a dead city street will more likely benefit from a more diverse mix that will give a wide range of locals something to check out. 

Ultimately it comes down to a combination of judgment, taste and what is being proposed from the local community. 

However, there are some points beyond simple artistic criteria to consider that will apply when selecting projects: 

  • Try to think beyond either arts or business. Renew Newcastle is neither an industry development scheme nor a straight arts project. It works by allowing people to do whatever they are passionate about rather than forcing them into rigid category guidelines. Projects must be capable of succeeding on their own terms: if they need to make money they should be capable of it, if they need a community behind them they should be capable of demonstrating that, if they need a lot volunteers they should be able to show how they will get them. The most successful projects in Newcastle have ranged from the purely not-for-profit to quickly thriving businesses - each is capable of bringing people to the city and leaving a valuable lasting legacy.
  • Look for 'initiativists'. 'Renew'-type schemes are for people willing to take the initiative and make their passions happen. Most arts projects tend to concentrate on the funded arts sector, but the temporary and uncertain nature of this approach does not particularly suit organisations who need long lead times and planning certainty. The ideal projects come from an individual or a small group who are passionate. Passionate people that want to make something happen and are willing to put in the hard yards to realise it are the best candidates. They are also not often effectively catered to by more formal arts projects or business development schemes. This kind of approach rewards passion as much as 'professionalism' in the bureaucratic sense.
  • Look for people with a sense of responsibility. This is the flipside to the previous point - while passion is a great thing, you also need to ensure that people will be responsible and respectful of the opportunity they are being given and the property they are being entrusted with. 
  • Make sure they are not entirely reliant on passing trade. If you are in a downbeat part of town, encouraging people to open shops that cater to passing trade may be a recipe for failure. The best projects are ones that will either bring people out of their way to visit them (such as a niche gallery, for example), ones that have a secondary audience or market elsewhere (such as on the internet or supplying their wares to other markets, galleries or retailers), or ones that don't have much need for a passing trade at all (such as artist studios or creative services like writing or editing that can be done from anywhere).
  • Think temporary. If projects only have a guaranteed 30 days in a space, it is very important that they don't put into them more than they are willing to lose in 30 days. Encouraging people to put too much work into a space that they could soon lose risks generating a lot of bad will for the project. Selecting projects that need more security than that to be successful or that need to spend a lot of money upfront to get started is a recipe for trouble.
  • Select projects that are not competing with existing businesses. This is the last but probably the most important point when it comes to keeping the local business community onside. There is no point subsidising and supporting new people to move into an area if all they are going to do is kill off what is already there. One of the key aims is to create a cluster of interesting new things that cannot be found elsewhere. The aim is to grow activity rather than simply compete for it.  

Matching the artists and creative initiatives to the right spaces is important part of getting the project right. 

Some properties lend themselves to certain kind of uses - a big open space with large walls makes a great gallery. A small pokey shopfront probably doesn't, but would make a great space for a local jeweller or craftsperson. 

Someone who makes their own small wares needs small spaces, while a sculptor, for example, might need a large one. 

Also think about how the public will react to different kinds of work and what the passing audience is likely to be. Putting a gallery of confrontational images next to a toy shop or a school is asking for trouble. 

As a rule, the more prominent a space, the more important it is to ensure that it is not merely managed responsibly but seen by the public to be managed responsibly.

Each project is at least partially an advertisement to potential projects, property owners and the wider community - getting it right is the best promotion you can get.