Schoolhouse Studios

Schoolhouse Studios was started by Alice and I. We aim to provide affordable work spaces for artists. We are passionate about creating a vibrant and supportive creative community.

“There are lots of risks with anything, but if we worry about risks then we never get very far in life.” Elizabeth Barnett

How was the space first identified and who was contacted to secure it?

We had been looking for a while at commercial leases when finally we decided to think outside the square. We had noticed the Steiner school had vacated the Nicholson street site to merge their senior school with the junior school over at the Convent. We lined up a viewing, put in a proposal and began leasing the buildings in March 2011. (Initially we leased the one building and over the year added more and more old classrooms to the lease!)

What was required to secure the space?

We had to change all the locks and rip up quite a bit of musty old carpet. All spaces are old classrooms, locker rooms or offices of varying sizes which was easy to repurpose into studio spaces.

What needed to be provided by you as hirer or user of the space?

We provided studios with a wireless internet network (which was a nightmare to set up and I have learnt a great deal about networking since). My advice to people starting up studios with brick walls, take the time and money to get a professional in to help you out. We also provided locks on all studios, kitchen and bathroom facilities etc.

What were the costs?

We spent a lot of money on changing locks and cutting keys, carpet removal and a sander for the Chapel. We had to get in a plumber to fix a lot of broken seals on the toilets. We did everything as cheaply as we could, like doing the work ourselves where possible. We had a few working-bees in those first few months. It has certainly paid off now!

What were the resources available to you?

Lots of muscles and willing workers. The community spirit really grew out of these early days of hard slog getting the place into a reasonable condition again (it had been vandalised).

Who helped you to fit it out?

We did it more or less ourselves and the artists took responsibility for fitting out their own studios (painting, fitting shelves etc). It was great to watch everyone take pride in their spaces. Most people went down to hardware stores and bought mis-tints to paint their studios on the cheap.

What were/are the obstacles?

We are lucky with the site that it is zoned as a place of assembly (being a school) so we can hold exhibitions and have people work from offices, teach little workshops etc. It is a great fear that this is pretty rare especially in the inner city to have this kind of zoning.

At first the school were a bit reluctant to lease out the site to artists. There are some pretty negative connotations about artists, that we might wreck the site more, but I think we have only improved the site and are great security for the landlord. We hold events that bring in a wide range of the community in to share in this very special site.

What were/are the risks?

There are lots of risks with anything, but if we worry about risks then we never get very far in life. I guess our biggest fear at present is where to go next (the site will be redeveloped later in the year into townhouses). Currently we are on a month by month lease and we could be kicked out of here at any time and Alice and I feel responsible for providing 75 people with an alternative work space should that happen. As long as we don’t annoy the neighbours I think we will be fine! (I have a friend who has been running studios on a month by month lease for over 10 years!) Anything is possible.