Shared spaces are becoming increasingly common in creative neighbourhoods like Collingwood, as arty individuals seek each other out as a means to save money on rent, all the while fostering a sense of community and collaboration.
The space is the brainchild of Hugo Atkins, a 23-year-old entrepreneur, artist and basketball fan, in case you didn’t pick up the homage to the Lakers’ most popular point guard. The space is for all manner of artists, but its future is only limited by Atkins’ imagination.
“I looked at a whole bunch of different properties, but essentially I wanted it to be like a cultural centre, so it had to have studios, it had to have a cafe, it had to have a little retail section, it had to have an event space,” he says. “Basically it had to be a hub that could harvest a whole series of different things, ranging from arts and design to creative and lifestyle.”
The 1200-square-metre space is bright, light and modern. It's obvious the Atkins isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, as evidenced by the paint-splattered shorts he's wearing when we meet. Formerly an installation artist and sculptor, he's done a lot of the fit-out, learning over the years from builders on this and other projects.
The building offers 25 desk spaces available for very reasonable rent, as well as studios, private spaces, meeting rooms and a spacious industrial kitchen.
There is a lot still to come. In March, a cafe will open to keep the creative juices flowing and there are plans to regularly host markets, exhibitions and pop-up shops. Magic Johnston will also house Motto Melbourne, an independent art and design bookstore, and designer Rob Cordiner’s Smalltime Books publishing imprint. Atkins also has plans for markets, exhibitions, pop-up shops, zine fairs (the first of which was held back in December 2012, featuring Motto, Smalltime, Sticky, Perimeter Books and others), and launch events.
This isn't Atkins' first time running a studio either. He was also involved in Cobden Street Studio and the space that housed Parts & Crafts in Carlton, as well as Jerome Borazio’s gallery space and street culture shop, Rancho Notorious, where he started working when he was 15. Before that he had a brief career as a champion model figurine painter. More recently, though, Atkin’s was responsible for the reincarnation of a new nightlife space in the city, the infamous Buffalo Club off LaTrobe Street, which is currently closed for renovations.
But for now, Atkin’s has secured a 10-year lease on the property housing Magic Johnston, which was a vacant warehouse space for six years prior, and had previously been home to a shoe factory, a mirror factory, squats, studios and a sweatshop. Consumed by the idea of creative spaces, inspired by sites he has seen in abroad in places like Japan and Europe, Atkins’ ideas are varied and ambitious.
“People need to start doing their own thing more,” he says. “I'm totally about originality.”
Magic Johnston invites creatives and collectives to apply for the inaugural Junior Johnstons Foundation Hall Pass Scholarship, which will grant them one year rent free to work on their next project. Applications close January 15.