By Nina Scarff
West Footscray corner arts space opens with vibrance and an ambitious vision.
Tommy Sea may not have been searching for an art studio space in the West Footscray pocket when commissioned to renovate the 582 Barkly Street property earlier this year.
An aerosol artist by trade, Tommy had been looking for an opportunity off the back of a career pivot from personal training and a desire to escape ‘the nine-to-five rat race’. So when the landlord offered him the space, Tommy chose to roll the dice on the corner shop opportunity. ‘I was renovating this place, the owner wanted it renovated, so I started works on it, and he offered me to rent the place if I had an idea for the space.’
Having grown up in the St. Albans postcode and remaining local, it was important for Tommy that this space encompassed the community and gave back to the locals. Still, he was unaware of what that might resemble but wanted it to incorporate art in some sense.
When Tommy went to work on the exterior walls in his signature aerosol style, locals began to wonder what the space was becoming. ‘People were asking if I was an artist, and I said sort of, and someone said art studio and when they said that, everything sort of fell into place.’ When asked about the transition from personal training to studio-owner, Tommy explained that The Corner Studio is more than a job and that the idea’s ‘always been there’. ‘I had a gist of how to run a business, I knew it would take a lot of growing and a lot of hard work, but I thought the opportunity was there.’
Tommy liked the idea of an art studio as a place of transit; not structured like a school environment, nor specific like a traditional art class, but a space that encourages expression and inspires confidence. ‘You want to ensure that you’re not treating the process as a job because being pushed takes away from the natural process needed to create art’, Tommy says. When you swing by, you’ll find yourself in a vibrant hub that reflects five months of hard work and creativity.
The space also supports the local disadvantaged youth programs with the vision to make art accessible for all, a cause close to Tommy’s heart. ‘We come here, connect, and grow together in this creative space.’ A large blackboard at the far end of the store reads The Corner Studio’s values: respect, compassion, community, modesty and inclusivity, which are echoed through its outreach program.
So when it came time to ask what was next, Tommy’s vision was crystal clear. ‘Once the workshops get up and running, I want to empower young people who don’t have lots of opportunities by paying them to run workshops here. He continues, ‘I want to instill in them the idea that they can do something positive with their art.’
The Corner Studio
582 Barkly Street, West Footscray