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Building Dreams

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Building Dreams – In this article, Dave Carr interviews one of the artists from a local studio space with a distinctive building off Thomas Street.  They discuss the importance of a building’s aesthetic in the creative process 

This is the story of one building, the love of that building and its transformation into and living breathing, creative space.

 Number 7-11 St Augustine Street, now known as the back loft and cathedral studio , stands as a lone brown brick Victorian building on a modern apartment stretch just off Thomas Street. In centuries past, it would have been just outside the city walls, and the area still has that edge-of- town-feel that characterises the neighbourhood.

Today ring the buzzer, climb the narrow wooden stairs and you are met by 24 artist studios, an event space, chill out areas and an urban garden. On any given day performance artists will mix with painters who will cross paths with sculptors and musicians.

The studio offers an artist a concentrated working environment free from distractions. Working there it’s possible to be part of a wider community and on leaving, feel a job has been done for the day. In many ways the act of creation is like any other kind of labour, some can work from home and some can’t.

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Rewind the tape to 2005 and Sardinian native Antioella Scanu had been forced out of her previous residence in the docklands, and had been searching for the right art space for a full year. The property boom had been pushing the artist community out to the edges with its high rents.

It was a quest that combined her twin passions “I love the arts and I love buildings and I especially love old buildings” Modern buildings were a non runner and could never work, unless you have an inspired architect. It’s the fault of the people who commissioned the architect; their clueless about art spaces; what do they know?  Nothing! They’ve never talked to the artists; they’ve never been in an art studio.”

But Saint Augustine Street has a long history and history talks.” It was love at first sight; the building spoke; you could feel it. Some mothers hear their babies even though their babies don’t speak; for me a building speaks”.

There followed nine months of intensive work. The whole structure had been derelict for years. It has lived previous lives as, a television hire shop, a clothing factory for Saint Bernards and to this day the loft is still in procession of four old singer-sewing tables.

Over time, more has being added; an urban garden and event area have contributed to the underline philosophy of this multipurpose space. “The arts don’t have any boundaries; it was very natural for me to set up a space for cinema or exhibitions or theatre or music. Why can it not facilitate everything?”

It’s a philosophy that has given voice to no. 7- 11 Augustine Street which today teems with artists working at any number of disciplines. Artists who cross paths, and by mixing and sparking together act as the very life blood of this living and breathing building.

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