The co-working space transforming artistic flair into viable businesses

By David Russell

How do you turn incredible artistic skill into a viable and sustainable business? It’s a problem faced by an overwhelming majority of artists around the world, and one arts-focussed co-working space Fifth Quarter is attempting to solve.

Located in an unassuming warehouse in Brompton in inner-city Adelaide, Fifth Quarter is an arts business incubator and co-working space for early career and emerging artists. An initiative of Carclew, the program offers residencies that give artists shared office space, bespoke business mentoring and training, and access to rooms for meetings and workshops.

Ovation

Actor Jamie Harding is one of eight artists currently operating a business out of Fifth Quarter. He is Artistic Director of Ovation, a theatre company that specialises in delivering performing arts programmes in schools, with a focus on regional communities.

“Being a country boy… (I) never thought working in the arts was an achievable dream,” Jamie told Inside South Australia.

“(After school) I got accepted into the Flinders Drama Centre, where I studied for four years. When I graduated my first gig out was on a TV show called Rain Shadow, with Gary Sweet, Victoria Thaine and Rachel Ward. I then did State Theatre… and McLeod’s Daughters.”

From there, Jamie did the thing many actors do, he moved to Sydney, and found work with the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). He joined the open program, travelling around the country teaching performing arts. That perspective taught Jamie something; that there were huge gaps in the national arts education scene, particularly in regional areas.

With that insight in hand Jamie moved back to Mt Gamber and started Ovation.

Jamie Harding from Ovation recieving business mentoring from business consultant Amanda Jones.

Jamie Harding from Ovation receiving business mentoring from business consultant Amanda Jones.

“We’ve been in Mt Gambier for five years now,” he said.

“We have a whole range of things we do; after school programs for kids who want to go on and have careers, and in-school programs for disengaged students.

“We also run projects about regional South Australia, addressing issues in those regions and using theatre as a tool to connect and educate communities and give local voices a stage, because there are lots of unheard voices in the regions.”

With both the business and its mission growing, Jamie decided to open Ovation in Adelaide to promote the company’s work in regional South Australia and connect metropolitan and regional arts scenes.

“I realised I needed help – that’s what brought me to Fifth Quarter. The team is incredibly supportive, and this program completely changed my life. That sounds like Oprah, but it has made the impossible possible.

“To have an affordable office space as a artist where you can work and have meetings is truly valuable.

“Also to be connected to other artists in the space and see what they are doing… its really nice to feel like you are part of the Fifth Quarter family.

“The mentorship has given me more clarity on my vision. I’ve only been here seven months… but a lot has happened in that time that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Ovation’s list of successes includes being announced as a finalist in this year’s South Australian Regional Awards in the Arts and Education categories.

“I actually cried when I found out – it was so great to get that recognition.”

Sarah Thame (visual artist)

Visual artist Sarah Thame has been at Fifth Quarter since graduating from the Adelaide College of the Arts last year. She creates insanely detailed prints by engraving into plastic.

Sarah developed her style while studying at TAFE, where she started experimenting with the engraving process. Her work has incrementally become more and more abstract since that time.

The 10×10 centimetre artworks involve a combination of rare skill, Zen-like patience and many, many hours.

“I don’t time it, but this piece probably took me over a month,” Sarah says of the artwork she is currently working on.

“I basically sit for hours and hours.”

One of Sarah Thame's 10cm x 10cm prints.

One of Sarah Thame’s 10cm x 10cm prints.

Fifth Quarter has helped Sarah define her goals and the direction she is heading.

“I’m just focussed on creating work at the moment, so I have enough art for my portfolio… and I want to look at moving towards commissioned work.

“Being around other arts professionals is also a great source of motivation.”

Despite the extraordinary amount of time that goes into each piece of artwork, prices aren’t exorbitant. Punters can see Sarah’s work at her first solo exhibition in September at Carclew.

Point and flex Circus

Marina Gellmann joined Cirkidz when she was four, but her interest in circus probably started even earlier.

Both my brothers are professional circus performers, so I was sort of born into it,” she told Inside South Australia.

Marina’s new company Point and Flex already has two shows under its belt. Their debut show Temper hit last year’s Adelaide Fringe and received 4.5 stars from Rip It Up, an huge achievement for the company’s first-ever show. Marion Council liked it so much they paid to send Temper on a ‘seven shows in seven nights’ tour in different venues around Adelaide.

Point and Flex followed up with 3 Steps Ahead, which in addition to Adelaide went to the Melbourne Fringe, where it won the coveted Best Emerging Circus Performer award.

Fifth Quarter supports point and flex with administration, business development, and mentoring, “which has been really helpful because I had absolutely no idea how to run a business.”

“We started without fifth quarter, and we found out that the work we had done to build the business was completely wrong – I was guessing my way along. Now we actually have a structure.”

Marina is now working on developing her next show, possibly for the 2016 Adelaide Fringe.

Act Now

Actor Edwin Kemp Attrill and the theatre company he helps run are also based at Fifth Quarter. Act Now works on social justice programs within communities. Most of the work they do is within schools, but they run programs in workplaces as well.

“The issue might be homophobia or racism; our theatre company comes up with a play that addresses that issue within the community,” Edwin said.

Edwin Kemp Attrill conducting an Act Now workshop.

Edwin Kemp Attrill conducting an Act Now workshop.

Now seven years old, the company was on the brink of collapse when Edwin re-joined the team. They’ve been based in Fifth Quarter for two years, and plan to stay as long as they can. Act Now uses professional actors in the plays, and sometimes invite community members themselves to take the stage.

“Fifth quarter provides great access to space, which is difficult to find… and because of its strong links to Carclew has great networking opportunities.

“It’s a good place to be; there’s a solidarity between artists, a sharing of ideas and feedback.”

Carclew, which funds Fifth Quarter, is a Brand South Australia member.