Symptomatic City

Investigating the Symptoms of the City

Ghost Town Rejuvination

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So apparently we’re in a recession, and if you haven’t noticed, there’s a shit load of street front shops emptying out. Infiltrated by leasing signs, our city hubs are in danger of becoming vacant, invariably locking people into their homes. According to the Guardian, an estimated 70,000 retail outlets will close this year in Britain. And so, in an attempt to revive the crisis struck urban vacancy, the communities secretary will announce a £3m plan to make grants to “people who find creative reuse for vacant shops”. In addition, “Planning rules will be relaxed to allow changes of use which go against local guidelines.”

So with a bit of google powered searching, we’ve managed to find some people that are actively doing exactly this. Chashama, a non-profit organization based in NYC, transforms temporarily vacant properties into thriving ‘arts-focused hubs’. From theaters, gallery spaces, and studios, Chashama supports artists by providing them an exposed space to create. In fact, Chashama have been at it since 1995, and have converted “40 locations, giving 7,500 artists access to subsidized space, which supported approximately 10,000 public presentations for over 500,000 viewers.” It’s a staggering amount of work and it’s all documented on their flickr stream here.

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But here’s the thing. We, in the creative community cannot wait for the government and organizations to come and swoop down to the rescue. The opportunity is out there right now. It’s viable for us to team up with like minds to form collectives, and to muscle out a property bargain. In Auckland, a team of graduates have set up a studio at ohnosumo, and cross street is filled with artists residence/gallery spaces. The precedence exists, it’s time to capitalize. See you on the other side.

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