ARTHUR HEAD PRECINCT Potential Ideas for a ‘Creative Arts Hub’ (City of Fremantle)

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From Bathers Beach - Arthur Head Group


The BBAHG Group-The City of Fremantle


Potential Ideas for a ‘Creative Arts Hub’ from Bathers Beach - Arthur Head Group

Revised May 2012


Following the release of the Draft Management Criteria for Arthur Head Properties by Marisa Spaziani on the 11th of April 2012, The Bathers Beach Arthur Head group (BBAHG) have prepared a response to the document.

We believe that the management of the properties can only be developed following the creation of an overall policy that guides decisions for Arthur Head to achieve national benchmark status as an arts precinct.

The BBAHG Group welcomes Council’s commitment to the area and the opportunity to work with Council [1] to improve and extend the creative hub at Arthur Head.

We wish to submit a revised paper that outlines principles that we believe need to underpin the development of the area, together with some specific initiatives that we believe would contribute to achieving the City’s goals.

We look forward to working towards the common goal of achieving a more exciting, inviting and accessible Arts Hub at Arthur Head.

It is also worth making the point that these ideas arise from our direct experience of working on the site, in some cases for more than 20 years, and from our constant interaction with people who visit the site.

General Principles

1. Build from what already works

The Arthur Head site is currently active. In any discussions about building a more vibrant arts hub, consideration needs to be given to the value of retaining strong anchor tenants who have over the time of their tenancies upheld the principles and requirements for activity, excellence of artistic practise and accessibility to the public.

Units 2 and 3 at J Shed are occupied by full time professional artists who have operated viable creative businesses, with no subsidy, for the last 20 years. Greg James have produced more than 80 public art works located throughout Western Australia and Interstate.

Both studios have hosted a range of other artists in their studios as artists in residence, regional and interstate artists undertaking projects, co-workers, mentoring recipients or international guests. The doors to these studios are open and members of the public continually enter to look around and chat.

To include them in the proposal is imperative. They offer an anchor and a valuable resource to build on with their established infrastructure, well equipped studios, networks into the community and sense of connection to place. These assets would be invaluable for new artists, emerging artists and artists in residents to tap into and make use of in their induction period.

Greg James and Jenny Dawson are very keen to continue their mentoring role in a future plan for Arthur Head with skill development, work experience and access to facilities being possible for emerging artists who may locate at Arthur Head as well as a continuation of their self funded artist in residence programs for local and International artists.

2. A mix of activity

The most vibrant outcome will be achieved through a mix of creative activity - different arts businesses from individual artists fulfilling commissions in various art forms, arts retail spaces, galleries, learning centres, artist collaborations etc. This diverse mix should include well-established artists and craftspeople, young artists, emerging artists, Aboriginal artists, opportunities for children, commercial activity and community-based activity.

3. Maximise sustainability

The Creative Arts Hub needs to be financially and creatively viable. A range of resources can be pursued to undertake and maintain the ideas we offer below. The need to avoid recurrent costs means the focus should be on commercially viable arts-related businesses and activities that are self-supporting.

Realistic expectations of artists’ activity levels, availability to the public and financial resources must form the basis of the costings for any planned development.

4. Maximise public access and engagement

The Creative Arts Hub must offer an attractive and accessible environment for visitors and locals. To truly engage the sophisticated traveller it must go beyond the predictable tourist offerings and provide a unique insight to the day-to-day working life of artists. This also reinforces the importance of a mix of creative activity in the area.

5. Staged development

We believe this Creative Arts Hub will be best realised through staged development that allows each new element to be embedded and its impact to be assessed before moving on to the next stage. The retention of established anchor tenants who would provide infrastructure and mentoring opportunities as well as a role models for emerging artists is important in the mix for this area. This will enhance the viability of the development, allow for appropriate communication and consultation between all parties and allow the City to pursue new opportunities and innovations that arise along the way.

6. Respect for Heritage

There is an outstanding opportunity to make a showcase of the area by embracing the site’s significance to local Aboriginal people, working with them to understand and interpret its pre-contact history and highlight its cultural importance to the Traditional Owners. This, together with the proper care of the site’s unique Colonial heritage, and the presence of working contemporary artists, would offer a dynamic combination for visitors to the area – something of which Fremantle could be extremely proud.

Specific ideas

  • Linkages and welcoming the public

There is a great opportunity to link the Arthur’s Head venues more successfully with each other and with neighbouring precincts such as Bather’s Beach, Fishing Boat Harbour, the Maritime Museum, South Mole and the Port facilities, the West End.

The creation of suitable pathways (including the possibility of a boardwalk as is presently being constructed at the rear of Kidogo Art House), seating areas, public toilet facilities, appropriate planting, lighting and well-designed directional signage would immediately impact on the accessibility and viability of the area. These have been long-neglected and should be included in the first stage of any development.

Opening the Whalers Tunnel daily from 8am and closing later in the evening (especially during the summer months) would immediately improve pedestrian flow and access around the area and the effective use of this facility needs to be incorporated into pathway planning. It would be ideal to have the tunnel open permanently with appropriate security and lighting installed.

Opportunities to engage with Fremantle-based experts (landscape architects, designers etc) in the development of a plan for the area and the incorporation of public art, some of which could be produced by artists in the area, would build the sense of ownership of the site within the Fremantle community.

Bathers Beach activity

Local residents and visitors should be encouraged to swim at Bathers Beach. At present signage at the beach focuses on what isn’t allowed but the proximity of the beach to Fremantle city centre has the potential to attract and hold people in the area. Many people are unaware of how close this little beach is to the city and therefore travel away from Fremantle to access swimming areas. The provision of facilities such as an outdoor shower and shade structure would quickly give the message that swimming is an expected activity at the site. Public toilets would also be useful at some stage since we all have the experience of making our facilities available to the public from time to time.

General maintenance

Regular maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and surrounds needs to be accounted for in any future plan. For many years the tenants of J Shed have struggled to ensure that basic maintenance of the building is undertaken. At times this has led to considerable risks being experienced in the studios, such as roof leaks onto electrical circuitry.

Over and above this basic maintenance, the care and condition of the buildings has been neglected with peeling paint and pot-holed car parks detracting greatly from the tenant’s and the visitor’s experience. These matters should be an absolute priority in any planned development of the site. It is recommended that rents from Arthur Head properties should be held in a fund that allows for maintenance, special events, marketing and promotion of the area as a vibrant hub.

Marketing & events

There is an opportunity for the City to brand and market the Creative Arts Hub. It may be feasible to form an Arthur Head precinct group that can feed creative ideas back to Council on an ongoing basis.

The BBAHG would support the use of consistent branding and signage to complement their individual business signage. This would enhance movement around the site (by creating an ‘arts trail’) but could also provide a springboard for effective marketing of the area and of one-off events that could be generated within the hub. All tenants would be enthusiastic participants in open days, arts markets, an annual Tunnel Art Exhibition or an art event on Bathers Beach along the lines of Sculpture by the Sea. These activities could be promoted at special times of the years to coincide with other events such as Fremantle Festival or arts-related activity such as Artsource’s Open Studio days.


All plans for the development of the Creative Arts Hub will need to be fully costed. Many of the initiatives we have outlined could be achieved by the City making a one-off investment in planning and infrastructure, plus ongoing commitment to maintaining the site. If the City develops effective and open dialogue with the tenants we will be most supportive of collaborative initiatives and are willing to invest our time and resources in initiatives that are of benefit to all.


There is an excellent opportunity to develop a Creative Arts Hub in the Arthur Head area by building on what is currently working, establishing a strong working relationship between all parties and committing to maintaining the site. Together we can create a world-class facility that gives locals and visitors alike an opportunity to engage in a meaningful way with the arts and practising artists.

We look forward to working with the City in achieving this vision.

Bathers Beach - Arthur Head Group:

  • Greg James, Dip Fine Art Sculpture, Sculptor and Gallery owner - Unit 2 J Shed
  • Jenny Dawson, BEd.Sts, BA Fine Art, Dip Teaching, Post Grad Dip Craft, Ceramic Artist - Unit 3 J Shed
  • Peter Zuvela, Adv Dip Photography, Photographer / teacher - Unit 3 J Shed
  • Joanna Robertson, BA Fine Art, Director - Kidogo Art House and Gallery
  • Glen Cowans, Underwater Photographer - Round House Gallery and Studio

May 7th, 2012


  1. ^ City of Fremantle-Cultural Development Working Group The group were Cr Tim Grey-Smith, Cr Josh Wilson, Chris Bendall, David Hyams, Jon Cope, Andra Kins, Jacqueline Holmer, Bob Reece and Mayor Brad Pettitt (ex-officio), plus Director of Community Development, Marisa Spaziani.

See also