Arts cred at risk

• Fremantle sculptor Greg James says the local council’s “contemptuous” treatment of artists could see others shun the city. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

• Fremantle sculptor Greg James says the local council’s “contemptuous” treatment of artists could see others shun the city. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

‘Would they do that to Myer?’

PROMINENT sculptor Greg James fears the port will no longer be the “city of artists” if Fremantle city council keeps treating artists with contempt.

Last week the Herald revealed the council would not provide artists at the J-shed at Arthur’s Head with long-term commercial leases, with Cr Tim Grey-Smith’s email effectively telling them if they didn’t like the three-year deal on offer they could pack up and bugger off.

Mr James says artists aren’t treated as serious businesses by the council, despite the benefits they bring the city. He says a three-year lease makes investment difficult.

“Would they do that to Myer?” he asked. “It’s just bullshit.

“It’s discrimination against artists in the city that’s meant to be for artists.

“If this isn’t resolved in the city of artists, what artists are going to want to come into the city and deal with the City of Fremantle, knowing there’s a chance of coming here and working their bums off for their own arts practice and then in three years get chucked out. It’s not a great incentive.”

Mr James, whose sculptures of Bon Scott and other figures dot the city, says artists aren’t looking for special treatment, just the same treatment as others, such as the big retailers whom the council lays out the red carpet for.

“We just want them to offer us sensible commercial leases, so we can get on with doing our art and being part of the community,” he says.

“We don’t ask for favours, we don’t ask to be subsidised, we just want to be treated as a business and not a bunch of underlings.”

Artist Jenny Dawson says the artists had built up the J-Sheds’ from nothing.

“It took us nearly 10 years to pay for the infrastructure,” she says.

“There was no electricity, no wires, there wasn’t even doors.

“But our lease says we have to take it with us which is a very bad situation council has got themselves into, because they will inherit empty, gutted sheds because they couldn’t communicate with us.

“We are disappointed.”

Photographer Peter Zuvela says artists just want the council to tell them the “truth”.

“If they don’t want us just tell us straight otherwise they are draining our life source.”


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