By James Elton-Pym
A group of artists and a well-known Sydney historian have been ordered to vacate their council-owned studios in Glebe by the end of the month to make way for renovations they never requested or wanted, the artists have told City Hub.
The artists had their existing leases terminated and have been issued with formal eviction notices.
Artist Christine Webb said the eviction had come at the worst possible time as she prepared for her upcoming annual exhibition in May.
“It is really awful to have been turfed out at the pinnacle of my work,” she said.
“They’re refurbishing the studios even though they don’t require refurbishment. They’re perfectly viable as they are.”
The studios, which were once old nurses’ quarters, are located behind Glebe Library.
While the spaces are currently priced at just $50 per week to make them affordable for artists, a council spokesperson was not able to confirm whether the rent would change after the estimated $28,000 upgrade.
The City of Sydney is seeking a new manager for the studios to take over from the Glebe Chamber of Commerce once the works are complete.
Gay Kalnins, who recently retired as the secretary of the chamber, oversaw the subletting of the studios.
“I can assure you — I would stake my life on it — that they wont be $50 per week anymore,” she said.
“As if the City of Sydney needs more money anyway.”
Ms Kalnins said the renovation was unnecessary and criticised council for removing useful parts of the studios, such as cupboards and desks.
“Nothing needed to be done but of course some bureaucrat in the council woke up one morning and thought: ‘Hmm, what will I do this morning? Oh yes, I’ll do up all those artists’ studios in Glebe’. They didn’t even inspect them or anything. They just made a decision to do it.”
A council spokesperson told City Hub the studios had not been refurbished in 10 years.
“The City is undertaking basic maintenance required to re-lease the premises and ensure it is ready for future use. This includes clean-up of the site, repair of broken fixtures, maintenance painting and removal of worn carpet,” the spokesperson said.
The artists have been told they may reapply for the studios once the new management has taken control and the renovations are complete, but Ms Webb said she understood she would not get any special preference for having used the space before.
Max Solling, a well-known archivist and volunteer historian, is the only tenant in the old nurses’ quarters who is not an artist. His team of seven volunteers runs a 15-year-old archive in one of the studios.
Mr Solling told City Hub he had been advised his archive was classified as “storage” so would no longer be eligible for an allocation grant.
“It’s [nonsense], an archive is a living thing . . . continually being added to,” he said.
Mr Solling is now moving all 40 archive boxes into his home.
“We will just keep working and do the best we can.”
The council spokesperson said council was working to help the artists find alternative accommodation.