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Meanwhile space: from a bus depot to a community arts hub

Meanwhile space: from a bus depot to a community arts hub

Chan, Jin ORCID: 0000-0002-6275-9763, Piterou, Athena and Lean, Hooi Hooi (2019) Meanwhile space: from a bus depot to a community arts hub. In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Annual Conference 2019, 14-15 November 2019, University of Newcastle. (In Press)

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"Meanwhile" uses of brownfield sites refer to the utilisation of a temporary space, either a building or an area which becomes vacant and probably derelict. Many city governments have increasingly adopted "meanwhile spaces" as short-term alternatives for creative spaces since 1980s. It serves two goals: adaptive reuse of derelict sites and to provide low cost spaces for arts and creative workers in the drive to build a creative city. We have seen examples such as very successful Berlin’s nomadic clubs and pop-up Granby Park in Dublin.

But "meanwhile" space could also be viewed as chaos and lack of long-term vision. It adds another layer of uncertainty to the life of many artists whose jobs and careers are extremely precarious.

Applicability to the conference theme – ‘SPACE - exploring new frontiers and entrepreneurial places:
We examine the development of a social enterprise in community arts. The social enterprise occupies a "meanwhile space" in a city, which is a derelict bus depot. The place was re-made into a hub for artists and local communities through a social enterprise vehicle. It is now housing a thriving community arts hub contributing to the cultivation of young and emerging artists. It has also slowly expanded into building of a regional alliance of similar small community arts hubs.

The aim of this research is to understand the development of a community arts social enterprise in the process of occupying and remaking of a brown field space located in a busy city centre.
We examine the meaning of "meanwhile space" and the precariousness of the "meanwhile space". Using a case study of an arts social enterprise based in a "meanwhile" space, we examine the innovation and networks of the enterprise as it attempts to provide services to its artists community and the general local community.

A case study method was deployed, which include structured and unstructured interviews. It was complimented by investigating the case's social network, observations and secondary data such as website. The research team has conducted three main sessions of interviews with the arts hub, totalling about 5 hours. The interviewees include the general manager, the curator (gallery manager) and an on-site graphic designer. It was conducted between December 2017 and April 2018.

Hin Bus Depot is the case we investigate. It locates in the area that has been heavily developed, the space for leisure and art is scarce and the connections between the art community and the local residents are limited. The space was built by Georgetown Municipal Transport in 1947 as part of recovery plan from World War II. It was run by Hin Company which operated a local bus service. By the 1990s, increasing number of people moved out of the old town area to nearly developed suburban centres in the island. As transportation demand changes, the Hin Company was shut down and the depot has become an idle space. But as it is located in the heart of the city centre, the land is extremely pricy and in high demand, awaiting the next stage of re-development.

In 2013 the bus depot was reused to host an exhibition by a young foreign artist, who introduced street murals to Penang. Since this inaugural exhibition, Hin Bus Depot started to earn its reputation as a community creative space in Penang. The place has been expanded from mural art space to include a gallery, deck, mural garden, lawn and retail outlets. Hin Bus Depot now includes an art gallery, innovative shops, artists’ workplaces and hosts a pop-up art market every Sunday morning. Hin Bus Depot has become a creative hub for young artists and business with innovative approaches, especially start-up business. It plays an active role in the art community locally and internationally.

Hin Bus Depot attracts young artists with affordable rent and extended networks, however, as an enterprise, Hin Bus Depot is still struggling to be self-sustainable. Not only is the size of Hin Bus Depot relatively small in Penang but also there are constraints in the local art market. Consequently, the financial performance of Hin Bus Depot has not grown as much as its reputation. For example, compared to other traditional art galleries, Hin Bus Depot claimed to be more welcoming for young artists and supportive toward high risk ideas, as a result, their productions do not always guarantee the return of their investment.

The case study highlights the success factors and challenges facing a community arts social enterprise which located in a "meanwhile" space. It provides lessons for future creative enterprises and city planner.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Place making, social enterprise, brown field, creative sector, arts entrepreneurship
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of Systems Management & Strategy
Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC)
Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC) > Supply Chain Management Research Group
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2019 12:02
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None

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