Alaska Projects is an unusual art space. It is a 5 metre by 5 metre former mechanic workshop found in a car park in the backstreets of Kings Cross and named after the Velvet Underground song Stephanie Says. The director and founder Sebastian Goldspink is a born and bred Kings Cross native and found the space by serendipity.
“My brother parks his car in the car park and there was a space he’d noticed had been vacant as long as he could remember. The car park is owned by the City of Sydney so I approached them to take over the space and make it a project space for Sydney based emerging artists,” he explains, and it worked.
“I approached the parking services directly with the idea that if I could get their support then that would really help the group and they were really supportive. They are all about trying to make the car park more friendly to visitors and a more welcoming place, as a dark, underground car park in Kings Cross its the stuff that terror is made of!”
But not anymore. While a great deal of cosmetic work had to be done to the space before it was inhabitable, Alaska Projects still remains authentic. “We love that it’s built on the site of two former parking spaces, so it’s [still] got the yellow line down the middle,” Goldspink enthuses. He has successfully transformed the transient space into somewhere worth lingering.
Like the space itself, Goldspink has undergone a transformation of sorts as well. Beginning as a student of literary theory, he worked as an actor, arts administrator and street artist for many years before embarking on his own venture with the artist-run Alaska Projects.
Coming from a street art background has clearly been a big influence on Goldspink's DIY philosophy. “[As a street artist] I’m really freed in where I want to make work, when I want to make work; its really cheap materials and its very accessible,” he says. “I guess in some ways that has given me the impetus to make Alaska as open and accessible as possible.”
In addition, the gallery culture of places like New York and Berlin, where taking “unfriendly and unwelcoming industrial areas, making them beautiful”, as Goldspink describes, has been a big influence and inspiration for Alaska Projects. Many artists featured are based in both Sydney and Berlin, their current exhibition of photographs by Sydney-born, Berlin-based artist Samuel Hodge (link) is just one example of that.
Alaska Projects will feature over 100 emerging Sydney artists throughout its first full year of operations in 2012, as well as “lots of individual one-night shows. We’re really interested in inter-disciplinary projects – working with writers, working with actors – we’re going to do a play there.” In addition they’ll also be venturing internationally with a gallery exchange with a space in New Orleans later in the year, while in Sydney Alaska Projects is “going to expand out” with a new gallery space in The Rocks alongside four artists studios.
For now, the small car park space is making a big impact. “People tend to think of Alaska as an installation, even though it’s a straight painting show or photography show. Its such a small space that everything has to talk to each other and make an overall picture; we really love that.”
As director, Goldspink believes that “part of our real core agenda is to be supportive of artists… I’m really just into passion and creativity and hard work; people who I see as being serious about their practise and really wanting to show. That’s the defining thing.”