Who are we?
tbC is an artist run initiative that offers young people a studio environment to locate their arts practice in and to launch creative careers from. The program provides young artists with space, materials, mentoring and opportunities to participate in and lead collaborative art projects. tbC promotes a ‘new status’ for young creatives via a contemporary, autonomous and experimental arts model. Young artists claim professional recognition via highly ‘visible’ contemporary creative activity and the arts model attracts a broad and sustained youth membership. We currently engage around 50 artists in the program with 20 or more highly active members, including young painters, poets, musicians, drawers, writers, photographers, filmmakers, text artists, sound artists, new media artists, 3d artists, street artists and art activists. All artists are encouraged to devise and lead art projects.
tbC engages young artists (and artist mentors) in a variety of professional art making processes, mediums, and collaborative practices, juggling social engagement, education and high art outcomes. tbC’s practice is gaining national and international recognition with research and partnership projects across Australia, the UK and the US. tbC is not a hang out, it’s taken very seriously by the young artists as a creative lab for the development of artistic careers.
This professional focus also supports the development of career pathways. tbC trains and employs members as studio managers, programmers, public speakers, designers, art administrators, curators and project managers. tbC promotes commissions and contract work to the local community offering the creative skills within the resident artist group to a developing client base.
Young people primarily benefit from tbC’s work, however engaging young people in positive and productive ways benefits and shapes the wider community too. Thousands of people of all ages have visited and engaged with tbC over the past 5 years, mainly due to our main street address in a creative community, our edgy and autonomous studio culture, the fact that we program outcomes during large festivals & community events and as a result of our developing networks, in particular our education sector partners and growing commissions from other communities and the corporate sector.
What drives us?
tbC is a provocative arts model that engages young people and established artists in ambitious and experimental cross-disciplinary practices. tbC proposes a ‘new status’ for young artists, offering them opportunities to engage with dominant culture and a ‘new aesthetic’ for community-based art, one that actively contests the historical divide between community and contemporary arts practice – a divide that often pits the insider and outsider artist and the gallery and community against each other. This contested line between community and contemporary art and the desire to be taken seriously inspires and drives the groups practice and outcomes.
Young members describe tbC as a safe and creative space that gets them producing and makes them happy. They talk about how productive and affirming the collaborative atmosphere is and that they derive much inspiration from working with other talented young artists and mentors. They also value the freedom they are afforded and the support they are offered in developing dynamic creative careers.
The tbC model is distinguished by a contemporary art focus. Art making is the central activity. This differs from traditional community art practice where social outcomes or the meeting of wellbeing targets shapes activity. Of course our model still produces positive community, health and wellbeing outcomes as it inherently builds confidence, self worth and meaning, but by focusing more on the ‘creative’ the tbC model doesn’t stigmatise young people with labels like ‘at risk’, ‘mentally ill’, ‘drug or alcohol dependent’ ‘disengaged’, ‘disabled’ etc. It simply refers to young members as artists.
Whilst tbC is a community based, youth focused and socially engaged arts practice, there are no overt social, cultural and political premises behind the making of artwork at tbC or our engagement with community. Paradoxically this approach has a really positive impact on the social, cultural and political fabric of our community.
How do we operate?
A mixed business model is being developed to sustain tbCs practice and includes, funding partnerships, social enterprise strategies and income stream development. tbC acknowledges that it cannot (and should not) rely on funding alone and that its future depends on introducing revenue streams into the semi-funded model. Whilst tbC does not want to develop a heavy ‘business’ culture within our arts based practice, we are keen to build an arts program that engages community buy-in, develops local business and stakeholder interest and generates an independent income stream that safeguards the critical autonomy of our arts model.
tbC is exploring and rolling out of a series of income generating ideas that seem to fit well within our artistic mandate. For example, a workshop series for the general public has been successfully launched and the proceeds are going towards supporting the funded resident artist program and providing a pathway for more young people into the program. tbC is also engaging in partnerships with schools, in particular the VCE curriculum, offering students opportunities to visit and learn about the tbC model of arts practice. tbC offers schools undertaking VCE studio arts and visual communications and design subjects the opportunity to study and critique an artist run space and to fulfill various VCE study criteria in an innovative way. The education sector appears to be a viable funding source for tbC and we regard the efforts that go into developing this funding source as complimentary to the building of a sophisticated arts model that allows the making of art to remain the key focus. tbC is also consulting to other communities, sharing its innovative youth arts engagement strategies.
tbC is currently funded by Yarra Ranges Council and is supported by University of Melbourne faculty of Victorian College of the Arts, Belgrave Traders Association, Upwey Township Group and the Cultural Development Network. tbC was also the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Start grant in 2013