It sounds like the dream, doesn’t it? Many visual artists and freelancers dream of having a shared studio, working in a community with other artists, forming a joint workplace that allows you to pursue your craft whilst having all the social benefits of an office or other communal workplace. But what happens when that opportunity actually lands in your lap – how do you navigate the complexities of setting up a shared workspace that actually works for everyone? It might be a complicated endeavour, but the rewards are absolutely worthwhile.
What Do You Need?
The first question to ask yourself is simple: what do you need? The answers to this question will have an effect on where you want to work, what kind of building you want to find, and what the parameters are for your shared space. Do you want a co-ownership with a community of artists, or do you want to simply rent a space in a pre-existing commune? Do you need a large studio space with plenty of room to get messy, or are you happier with a small table? Do you want to share the studio itself, or have a private space within a larger complex?
How Many People?
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to know how many people space will be for. This will be affected by the size of the space and the type of work you all do. More people will spread the costs and make the studio cheaper, but they will also require more management, and the more people are involved the more likely there are to be disagreements! Getting this figure right will be crucial for the sustainability of your shared workspace.
Get External Help
Employing the services of a Body Corporate Management company can be an invaluable way to take the pressure of your own shoulders when it comes to ensuring every artists’ needs are catered for, but also that everyone is behaving responsibly and pulling their weight. Body corporate managers are experts at organizing, scheduling, maintaining records, and reporting major or day-to-day issues to your workspace committee, allowing you to get on with your own artistic practise rather than worrying about the administrative details.
Set Ground Rules
Even the most flexible, artistic communities function best with ground rules, and it’s important to lay these out clearly so everyone knows where they stand. Is there a cleaning rota? Who has access to which spaces? Are the teabags in the kitchen space communal, or do you need to bring your own? All these basic rules will be helpful for your fellow artists to know, to avoid future misunderstanding.
The business of co-owning or co-using a workspace is a serious one, and it comes with many legal ramifications. You will all have to ensure the studios meet Health and Safety guidelines, as well as making sure that your rental agreements and finances are all sufficiently monitored. Suitable public liability insurance policies are vital, as contracts to make sure no artist can leave you to deal with their unpaid rent.
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