Local engagement from shop owners and Council

Local shop owners loved having us. They thought it was great to have the spaces filled as an empty shop is not good for any business. We were welcomed by our neighbouring shops when we started - they even brought us chocolates and one of those crazy flashing ‘opening’ signs!

yarn bombingAfter I had done a yarn bombing of the tree in front of our shop, the local Chamber of Commerce got in contact to say they’d love to see more creative activities in the shopping precinct and asked me to be in charge of programming.

They also offered to find a new space once our short-term tenancy in the original shops finished as they wanted to keep this creative activity happening.  (But, by then, my work had taken of elsewhere and I had figured that I wanted to be in space closer to where I live in Manly.) It shows that great new opportunities can come out of a short-term creative pop up.

yarn bomb treeAgain, I think you need to have a professional approach and don’t make it all about you but about your place in your community (which also includes local businesses). 

With North Sydney Council there was an issue of staff buy-in to the concept. The pop up shops were one staff member’s ‘brain child’ and, when there was change of staff, we were left to ourselves. That was not a problem for us but there has been no ongoing commitment to creative 'pop ups’ in Council to come out of our success. Next time, if there is one, they will have to re-invent the wheel over again.  It’s a pity as there was much to learn and keep from the experience. (That’s the reason why I decided to stay on the project after the first year  – and  I was the only artist to continue.)

For any local government involved with this activity, I suggest you retain 'how to' knowledge and plan something to build on a pilot project. Empty space activity is a very valuable way to engage with your community (especially the local business community), and local arts and culture.