Look What Just Popped Up03.06.2013
Pop-ups seem to be everywhere at the moment. Regional Arts NSW interviewed Pop-Up Parramatta’s Creative Broker, Merryn Spencer, (formerly of Orana Arts) as part of a series of interviews that will be featured on this website on pop-up shops, space activation and the creative scene’s engagement with this movement. Interview by Estelle Pigot.
What is the first step for a council or community who want to create pop-up opportunities in their region?
As the empty spaces landscape is still emerging in Australia, there are many ways of undertaking a pop-up opportunity. In our Council, it’s part of an integrated series of projects to enhance and enliven the experience of the city for those who live, work and play in the area and creating a ‘filler’ between major redevelopments in the area.
- Consult with the creative community who will be supporting the venture
- Find a series of empty shops, a sympathetic landlord who understands what you want to do
- Make sure you have the legalities in place (insurance, contracts, business plan)
- Pick your market, and then go for it!
What first steps are critical for an artist or collective considering taking on a space?
1) Get your insurance sorted out.
2) Decide who will be the leader if you are an ARI or group.
3) Stick to the plan.
What are the 3 – 5 considerations for pop-ups that nobody ever thinks about until it’s too late?
- Teamwork is imperative
- Volunteers need reward for their time (free coffee, free food, recognised credit as part of study, promotion of work etc)
- Keeping a shop open to required retail hours is often easier said than done
- Thinking up more than one way to generate income from the space and being willing to explore the Plan B, C or D if required, is critical
- Don’t invest your life savings in a fit out. Doing it on the cheap can be fabulous. Utilise recycled or up-cycled building materials, find all the old paint you can, with a bit of creativity and resourcing the fit out can be as competitive as a commercial shopfront. This is very important because no empty spaces project runs forever.
Have you encountered any regional pop-ups that have impressed you?
Each regional project has its own special flavour but I think metro based projects could learn a lot from our regional neighbours.
GOSFORD: Driven by the business community
NEWCASTLE: “Renew Newcastle” The original and the best. Fantastic non-profit model!
WYONG: Catering to the community rather than focused on creative industries
LISMORE: “Art at the Heart” Capitalising on the high density creative community in the Northern Rivers
I think sometimes also it works the best in regional areas when it’s project based. For example as part of festivals it’s worked extremely well like at Kandos Cementa in February where shopfronts were taken over by artists for a specific project.
What do you believe is the value of a pop-up project to a community?
- Drives creative industries
- Gives artists increased exposure and business experience
- Activates spaces, shopfront maintenance and anti-graffiti benefits
- Engages with a worldwide movement that is creative, exciting and dynamic.
What makes an amazing pop-up?
The things that make a project standout are about how artists run their ship; their drive and determination, rather than pure creative talent, although this is a major factor.
Here are some other important factors:
- Creative ideas
- Time management
- Store design / good use of space
- A considered brand “look and feel”
- Professional sales technique
- Prompt follow up with clients and follow through (you say you are going to do something, and then do it!)
- Hosting unique events
- Suiting the service to the market (research the area to ensure price points match the local market etc.)
Diversifying is important: looking into local markets, workshops, pop-up stores in other locations, online Etsy stores and networks plus constantly plugging through social media networks, . I take my hat off to any artist who runs an empty spaces project as they are really challenging.
This becomes easier each time you do it. Even after you have all of this, it’s that “X factor” that makes it work.
What are some resources available to people looking for pop-up inspiration, ideas and support?
- Empty Spaces website through UTS
- Marcus Westbury’s guide commissioned by Arts NSW
- This artist produces works around Brighton in the form of a ‘free space’ project
- My human family in Western Sydney
Regional Arts NSW attended the Creating Spaces conference in Newcastle in February 2013, read more on the event here.
(Article) Photo by Amanda James,Simon Cook (mpathe) herb ladder , 2012
(Home) Photo by Alex Wisser, SHH Centre for Hybrid Arts Halloween show, 2012