FREMANTLE sculptor Greg James is worried he’ll be forced to turn down commissions because of Fremantle council’s struggle to meet a contractual deadline for lease negotiations.
Last month Mr James and neighbouring artists asked the council to start the negotiations by December 7, as laid out in the conditions of their current licenses at the J Shed on Arthur Head.
But he says the council has been avoiding them because its staff are working on a new over-arching plan for the historic precinct which is due to be presented to councillors in February next year.
If the plan were adopted, that would leave one month to sort out new licenses before the deadline passes, and Mr James says that’s not long enough.
His current lease takes him up to March 2020.
“I have got two projects that will be installed in January, another by July and then I am starting another one to take me through to the next year, so anything that comes after that I need to be careful,” Mr James said.
“There is a sense that because we are an arts business we are somehow different and this kind of treatment is OK.”
It wouldn’t take the council long to simply end the artists’ tenancies and photographer Peter Zuvela says he’s been warned of payback for their prominent role opposing a proposed tavern.
“I’ve even had a council say to my face that we’ve been there long enough and should move on,” Mr Zuvela told the Herald.
He says it’s somewhat ironic that after five years of battling the council to stay put while it tried to activate J Shed, the artists are now sandwiched between two empty studios.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said there wasn’t much he could say at the moment.
“We asked the staff to go back and take a helicopter view of the area and look at different ways that it could be managed and activated,” Dr Pettitt told the Herald.
“We are looking at a short-term activation over summer.”
On Wednesday the council called for expressions of interest from groups or individuals to fill the unit overlooking Bathers Beach until March 7, giving them just one week to get their applications in.
The EoI document sets the monthly rent at $1000, but says if that’s a problem interested parties should apply anyway.
Meanwhile the council’s CEO Philip St John told the Herald a new Aboriginal cultural centre is a possibility at Arthur Head.
“The city is continuing to explore options for the longer term future of the J Shed building and site as a whole, and its relationship to the broader Arthur Head precinct,” Mr St John said.
“The council is likely to consider these options in early 2019.
“Within the same timeframe the city expects the feasibility study it has commissioned into the development of an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Fremantle to be completed. The city is keeping an open mind about whether any part of the Arthur Head precinct or other locations could be a suitable site for such a centre until the feasibility study is completed.”
The Herald understands former councillor Simon Nabor has expressed an interest in expanding his Moore n Moore cafe to Arthur Head, but he told the Herald it was a bit early to discuss that plan.
by STEVE GRANT