Art meets white goods

Artists moved in next to fridges and dishwashers at Tuggerah's Supa Centre.

Art in Tuggerah's Supa Centre One of the art galleries at Supa Centre Tuggerah
In-store promotion for the 24 studio galleries of the
Supa Art Project in Tuggerah. Photo: Yianni Johns. 
One of the studio galleries inside the Supa Centre shopping 
mall at Tuggerah. Photo: Yianni Johns. 

When a number of shops came up for lease around the same time in Tuggerah's Supa Centre on NSW's Central Coast in 2009, local artist and curator, Yianni Johns, jumped at a chance to expose whitegoods shoppers to some good local art. "I'll fill the place," Yianni told centre management.

The Supa Centre was switching its focus from fashion to fridges and Johns saw the empty shopfronts as a great opportunity to bring art to a new public - something he's been doing for a long time.

Yianni once opened an art gallery with a crashed plane on its roof next to a bottle shop in Wyong and has run galleries in Sydney pubs and a restaurant and led art parades through the streets of Sydney.  

The Supa Art Project began in February 2009 when Yianni installed artists in working galleries and studios in shops throughout the Supa Centre - until there were 64 artists across 24 shops. 

Contracts and commissions 

"I didn't have any money to support The Project, but I negotiated a 'free lease' between the artists and centre management," says Yianni. "Each artist signs a 'free lease' agreement which means they don't pay any rent with the condition that they have to open their shops on weekends."

In addition to negotiating the various stakeholders,  and providing other face-to-face support, Yianni also sent out regular emails with 'how to' guides and tips on marketing to encourage the artists to become self-sufficient. 

The artists, hailing mostly from the Central Coast, but also from Sydney, Newcastle and as far away as Broken Hill, pay a $40 joining fee to the Supa Art Project to be covered by its public liability insurance. 

Artists at work at Supa Art Project
Artists at work at the Supa Art Project 
in Tuggerah. Photography by Yianni Johns. 

Apart from this initial joining fee, the artists didn't pay rent or utility bills but paid Yianni a commission on artworks sold to cover the costs of the project management.

The open-ended 'free lease' agreement required the centre to give a minimum of two weeks' notice to end the contract. Yianni urged the leaseholders, however, to give at least one month's notice so he could find a replacement for the empty shop.

What the neighbours say 

The majority of shop-owners saw the art as a much-needed breath of fresh air at the Supa Centre.

Yianni says the response from the local community was amazing with around 1000 people turning up for the Project's opening night. 

"They were so into it. We even had people travel up from Sydney to see the Project," he says. 

Advice for starting-up 

Yianni's words of advice for local organisers: "You've really got to develop some sort of constitution - some dos and don'ts for people involved in the project. And sometimes you have to be inflexible about things so the project can succeed. 

"Most of all, you need someone to drive the project and keep things on track." 

The Supa Art Project really did "fill that place," as Yianni promised the Supa Centre it would.



Supa Art Project
Wyong Road
Tuggerah, NSW 2259