CONCERNED about Fremantle’s decline as WA’s artistic Mecca and the impact of rising rates, South Fremantle artist Andy Kent has put his hand up for the new Coastal Ward in October’s local government election.
“Seriously, I think Freo is more artistic in name than reality,” Mr Kent told the Herald.
“I think it was definitely an artistic destination and an arts hub, but I think these days it’s predominantly middle aged artists like myself who live here.
“I don’t think it’s seen as a destination for young people anymore, and I think something needs to be done about that.”
Mr Kent would like to see any empty council buildings repurposed for artists’ residences or studios.
“Whether they’re in the centre of Freo or whether they’re out in O’Connor or the industrial areas, if they could be somehow utilised by artists rather than just sitting vacant, then Fremantle is doing its bit to try and revitalise the art scene.
He also believes Fremantle should expand its artistic awards beyond the renowned Print Award, advocating for a general art award with a specific emphasis on emerging artists.
“I’d love to see it be an emerging artist award. If there’s some sort of residency that comes with it, or even if it’s an acquisitive prize, then some young artist is going to get their work in the Fremantle art collection, which would be pretty exciting.”
He said Fremantle’s galleries were struggling.
“It’s very tough for galleries to survive,” Mr Kent said, adding he wasn’t sure whether it was rising rents or simply the difficulty convincing people to invest in art when economic forecasts remain gloomy.
“You know, people need an outlet for their art,” he said, underscoring the importance of vibrant gallery spaces for local artists to showcase their work.
Mr Kent’s candidacy is also driven by concerns about the city’s fiscal policies. He pointed out that successive rate increases, coupled with service cutbacks like the CAT bus, have created a strain on residents.
“It’s sort of like a double whammy, and you see parks not getting dealt with properly,” he said.
With a self-funded campaign he’s doing some hard yards door knocking and says the same issues keep coming up.
“People are saying, ‘I can’t get footpaths fixed’ and they can’t get pruning done; potholes outside their house are not getting done.
With his own kids following him into art and music, Mr Kent worries that they and their contemporaries won’t have the same opportunities he’s had in Fremantle.
“They did the tried and true; they grew up as artists and musos and worked in hospitality, it’s almost a Freo rite of passage.
“I want them to be able to continue to do that.
“But it’s getting to the point where, even for myself, the rates are getting to the point where you almost can’t afford to live here.
“With rentals, these rate hikes are just going to be passed on to the tenants, and that’s no good, that’s not going to help anyone.”
He also wants to see less “party politics” and a renewed focus on addressing essential needs before delving into more ambitious future plans.
“It’s great to be looking into the future, but I think you’ve got to do the basics first, and then worry about the other stuff,” Mr Kent said.
by STEVE GRANT