Finding Creativity in an Underground Carpark

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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
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Alaska - Idea Bombing Sydney
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One of the biggest trends in 2013 has been the activation of unusual spaces in cities – places such as hidden laneways, forgotten rooftops and even deserted train platforms to name but a few.

Across cities, residents, town planners, architects and local politicians have realised the potential in unlocking these spaces for creativity. Alaska Projects has been a pioneer in Sydney, turning an underground carpark in Sydney’s King’s Cross from an isolated outpost into a popular destination. With the conversion of an underutilised portion of the space into an art gallery, it no longer car focused. The feeling that cars driving past the gallery space are out of place only further supports the successful conversion of space.

“My brother used to park his car here and I noticed no one was using the [nearby] mechanic’s office,” said Sebastian Goldspink, director of Alaska Projects. “It’s the perfect space for a gallery, a positive space for expression and discovery.”

Over the past three years, the gallery has attracted more than 30,000 visitors and it continues to make waves in Sydney’s art community. This year, it was involved in Australia’s international art show, Sydney Contemporary, and there are bigger plans to expand Alaska’s influence beyond the back streets of Kings Cross.

“Our motto that we established early on was an inversion of the environmental motto think globally, act locally, so we inverted it to think locally but act globally,” said Goldspink.

Alaska - Idea Bombing Sydney

The subterranean gallery leverages off the bones of a carpark to create an environment where art can thrive. The mechanic’s office and formal gallery space is small – only five metres by five metres – but as a modular white space, it offers artists a blank canvas to display their works. If the artist requires more space, there is also the potential to expand the exhibition or event beyond the mechanic’s office to include other areas of the car park including stairwells, elevators and common areas. In allowing exhibits to spill out beyond the office, there are no limits to what the space can do.

Alaska Projects has long celebrated diversity in artistic expression. The gallery has hosted exhibitions from emerging and established artists, large events aimed at Sydney’s creativity such as Idea Bombing, and even regular shows by Alaska Orchestra comprising musicians on recorder, clarinet, bassoon, accordion, synth, guitar, trumpet, drums, and electronics. It’s a melting pot of creative talent, one that may not seem to be well-suited to being housed underground, but somehow it works.

Like all successful spaces, the Alaska Projects gallery is well programmed and managed with passion. Upon arrival, it’s not unusual to receive a tour by Goldspink or asked if you’re familiar with their latest exhibit. Alaska’s success relies in part on a cool venue but also on even cooler management and support crew dedicated to make it a success.

What spaces in your city could be the new Alaska Projects? Let us know in the comment section below.

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