My idea to establish an artist and craftsmen hub or a “working collective” is nothing new. In Germany, where I am from originally, so called “Kunsthandwerkerhöfe” already exist. Although the concept of “Kunsthandwerkerhof” is a rather recent invention, with most having been opened in the 1990es, their origins date back to medieval times.
Classicaly, a “Kunsthandwerkerhof” is a place where different artists and small shops have set up their studios and galleries in a classic, u-shaped historical courtyard of half-timbered houses. The concept was introduced to save historical places from decay as well as providing a space for local arists and craftsmen to revtalise small remote communities. But not only former medieval sites have been repurposed by artists, merchants and craftsmen in the past decades. The revitalisation of historical buildings and even whole precints is “in fashion” with Oamaru’s Victorian Pecinct being one example in New Zealand.
My idea to create an arts and crafts community would be a mix of the classic German concept of “Kunsthandwerkerhof” and a more modern approach, like the one of the “spinnerei”.
After its liquidation in the early 1990’s, the area of a former cotton mill (Baumwollspinnerei), established in 1884 in Leipzig, Germany, was gradually repurposed into a vibrant artist hub which is increasingly popular with artists and visitors alike. The Spinnerei is well known as a centre for artistic production since 2004, having successfully attracted the attention of Leipzig’s gallery scene.
“There is hardly any other big, commercially revitalised factory complex which can boast so many art enthusiasts while continuing to provide a sanctuary for many artists and other creative freelancers.” (http://www.spinnerei.de/current.html)
The success of the “Spinnerei” as it is known today can not really be simply attributed to a communication strategy but rather to a combination of different factors: right timing, a strong support base within the local (artistic) scene and a lot of idealism amongst the founders. However, because of their consequent communication with and adaption to the local community, the initiators of the “Spinnerei” succeeded with their concept. (Read here for more information on the idea development: http://www.spinnerei.de/from-cotton-to-culture-150.html).
Today, the Spinnerei attracts artists and visitors alike through a mix of different offers. Besides artist studios, the former cotton mill area hosts one of the biggest (professional) artist supply retail stores in Germany as well as galleries and cafes. Furthermore, the area offers guest gallery spaces and areas for different events, such as concerts or literary readings. A management company looks after the administration of the space and the communication on behalf of the community (spinnerei website, promotion of spinnerei programme and members to public).
Although Leipzig had already been an artistic hub with its widely renown “Leipzig School”, the revitalisation of the “spinnerei” has largely contributed to its revitalisation and ongoing success in the past years. I wouldn’t say that this success is due to a specific communication strategy from its founders but a rather the lack of such a strategy. It has been a genuine concept of idealist artists who wanted to preserve a historic area in their (home)city. Instead of imposing their strategy of a creating a pure artist hub on some of the existing tenants, an organically grown strategy for the revialisation of the area lead to its present success. The “spinnerei” is a place established by artists for artists.