Breaking down the silos between art and commerceright-arrow
read-time5 mins
by Charter Hall Announcements

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First-time visitors to the newly renovated office building at 65 Berry Street, Sydney, are often surprised to be greeted not by a vacant lobby space of chrome and glass but by a buzzing community.

The ground floor of this 18-storey building has been reimagined as a shared space for the use of all tenants, with a beautiful minimalist design incorporating a wellness area including yoga facilities, a not-for-profit café, an artists’ studio and gallery, and an auditorium and communal area where events such as exhibitions, morning teas and after-work drinks are hosted.

The artists are housed in Project [504], an experimental, co-operative initiative showcasing an eclectic mix of emerging and well-known Australian artists including regular finalists in such prestigious events as the Archibald Prize, the Doug Moran Prize and Sir John Sulman Prize.  

Project [504] is part of our Pledge 1% promise to have a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work. Our goal is to offer up to 1% of our spaces, profits and people’s time, to support local charities, community arts and sports groups. The more successful we are, the more we can give.

The studios in which the painters work were custom built for the purpose by landlord Charter Hall, who sponsors the project. The artists work in full view of the public, and their finished paintings are displayed across the atrium area.

 

 

Artist Kathrin Longhurst, who helped co-found Project [504], says the juxtaposition of the creative space in a commercial environment is striking.

 

“You’re in this super-modern office building, and then there is this messy artists’ studio right smack bang in the middle of it, with these crazy artists hanging out and doing their work,’’ says Kathrin. “It’s amazing - it’s the best.’’

 

Artists currently in residence include renowned portrait painter Nic Stathopoulos, who won the 2016 Archibald Prize People's Choice award in 2016 with his hyper-real portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut.

“We love working here, finding great artists’ space is hard these days,’’ says Nic.

“And other people in the building love it too. People are very curious about how we work, so it’s helping to demystify that. It’s a great location, very accessible, and we get to hang our pictures in the atrium.’’

Instead of the culture clash that one might expect, Kathrin says both parties benefit from the interaction between commerce and art.

“The tenants in the offices just love being around these creative people, it really generates a buzz in the building,’’ she says. “

And what the artists really desperately need is somewhere to work, somewhere to create, that is away from their bedroom or the kitchen table.

‘’The gallery space and being able to hang pictures in the atrium is an added bonus, as we get to display works that would have been sitting in the stockroom otherwise, and quite often we get enquiries as a result.

“It’s has been so popular with the public that we have had adjoining buildings approach us and say ‘you can use our foyers for your exhibition space as well’.’’

 

 

The redevelopment of 65 Berry Street reflects major shifts in demographics and thinking around the workplace. Today, employers and workers expect their offices and immediate surroundings to provide an inviting atmosphere that fosters collaboration, creativity and productivity.

Younger workers such as Millennials in particular consider the overall workplace experience a determining factor in accepting a place of employment, and employers who can provide these types of environments have happier, more productive teams, while landlords who deliver them can command rental premiums, improved renewal rates and higher WALEs.

Kathrin points to brain research which shows that people surrounded by culture and art generally more innovative and creative.

 

“This is a real trend in the corporate world, companies now realise that in order to encourage Innovation and creative thinking, you've got to surround yourself with creative people."

 

“You've got to be inspired, get your brain working. If you just doing the same thing day, in day out, nothing you remain stuck in old ways. But if you have access to artwork that might be inspiring, thought-provoking or just aesthetically pleasing then you have people using their brains, thinking outside the box.’’

Kathrin says the unique Project [504] environment also stimulates the artists themselves in new ways too.

“Because it is a not-for-profit space, you can accept things that are a bit more experimental, that don't necessarily have to be commercially viable, which lets people exhibit works that are really making a difference.

“For example we had an Iranian woman's art association doing a group show, and we invited a dozen Turkish artists over from Europe who exhibited here. That was just an incredible exhibition.

“But most of all as an artist, having someone like Charter Hall as a patron, looking out for you, is the best thing. It makes you feel so valued and so secure.’’