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St Kilda Identities Serge Thomann, Johnny Iodine & Henry Greener image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Creativity, art, power & politics

by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

St Kilda Identities Serge Thomann, Johnny Iodine & Henry Greener image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

St Kilda Identities Serge Thomann, Johnny Iodine & Henry Greener at the Vineyard during the inaugural SKAC launch image by Kerrie Pacholli © pationpics.com

Back in mid August 2017 I joined the ranks of the community minded, consisting mainly of a small group of residents.

Over a number of years these individuals had watched their beloved St Kilda in parts, become a barren wasteland. Business in pockets throughout St Kilda had taken a nose drive. Large numbers of the artistic community that had once elevated St Kilda as the artistic epicenter of Melbourne had fled to Brunswick.

Inspired by the strategies of local businesses in other withering cities around the world this group set about igniting creative spirit into the city they loved. The non-for-profit charity The St Kilda Art Crawl was born.

I came on board quite late in the piece, by invitation from one of the founders; it was about 4 weeks before the date of the September art crawl. My first impression was this creative movement has legs. I noted the commitment of the organizers and decided to jump on board boots and all as a volunteer.

My job was to assist with online publicity. The second thing I noted was that the galleries, local businesses and established artists although expressing interest in this event were dragging their heals to officially commit. The main difference between this St Kilda art event and other cities around the world were individuals who were not local property or business owners were organizing this. The pressure was on.

I was way out of touch with the St Kilda art scene and only knew of a couple of galleries that had decided not to participate at that time.

Local artist Marko Maglaic was among the first to commit his time, talents and name on the dotted line in curating a collective pop up exhibition in Christ Church in Acland Street.

A chance meeting with local artist Salvatori Lolicato at 95 Acland Street Café lead me to produce a filmed and written interview with another Shakespeare Grove Artists Studios artist Adrian Spurr and then I was in the business of publicizing local artists in reference to the September 2017 St Kilda Art Crawl.

Two weeks to the crawl date we met Freddie Warschauer owner of a big chunk of real estate on the sunset side of Fitzroy Street. We asked him about the potential of using his window spaces for art and straight up he was keen as punch to put his time, resources and properties to work for a successful Fitzroy Street art crawl contribution.

Property owners Jenny Li and Rob Semple also decided to contribute and gave us the keys to 33 Fitzroy Street and we proceeded to produce what eventually turned out to be two pop up gallery’s showcasing the works of 18 artists over two crawls.

The St Kilda Live Music and St Kilda Comedy Club became proactive and the Espy opened their doors for the first time in years to support them and the crawl with local council deciding to give some money to make this happen.

The seeds of enthusiasm and positive creativity took flight among the arts community.

May 2018 saw the second St Kilda Art Crawl come to life with over 32 galleries including five pop ups stretching from Fitzroy Street, Barkly Street, St Kilda Road and Carlisle Street. With a 60% increase in community participation the event is considered a success by the organizers.

I asked Serge Thomann Photographer and Deputy Mayor of the CoPP between 2012 – 2016 his perspective about art in St Kilda.

How do you feel power, politics and money can assist the St Kilda Arts Community?

It is not known by many that Local Government is the government body that spend the most money on culture and art, from running libraries (Port Phillip has got 5), providing spaces (Gasworks, Linden, Multicultural Arts Victoria, Save the ABC, Carlisle Streets The Gallery, Shakespeare Grove Artists Studios, etc) to supporting local organisations (Red Stitch, Theatreworks, Rawcus, Phillip Adams Ballet Lab, MAV, Brightspace, The Torch, just to name a few) and individuals through various grants. There are also staff members who help artists and companies and mentor them. Obviously, the funds provided by a Council can make a big difference in the cultural landscape of a city. St Kilda has been an art hub for decades and we need to keep some of the creative juices flowing through our village. I believe artists are much better in running art programs – but they need to be funded, e.g. the importance of a Council. After due diligence, of course.

 How do you feel the St Kilda Arts Community can further give voice and make room for artists, art and creative pursuits?

As St Kilda is getting more gentrified, it is always more difficult for artists to find a voice and a space in our village. Artists have always had to fight for survival. And some artists are good, and some not so good. Or should I say popular or not so popular. St Kilda still has got great artists living here – painters (Peter Booth, Andrew Taylor, Lewis Miller, Ann Middleton, Alan Mittleman, Chris Beaumont, just to name a few), film makers and actors, fashion designers, sculptors, photographers, writers, comedians, etc… but most are a bit older and have been in St Kilda for many years. I agree, probably most of the young and up and coming artists live on the other side of the Yarra. There are several artists studios and spaces, but at the end, people should buy more art so more artists can live from their work. The St Kilda Arts Community does provide exposure for artists, creates a buzz around them. Being an artist can be a lonely world but SKAC brings them together and creates a family. This can only be encouraged. I am right behind it. Money can help, but it is not the only valuable ingredient for growth and prosperity.