David Saddington’s first brush with the art world came when he was 13 years old visiting a friend’s house in Sydney.
“My friend’s father was a Czech artist who shot paint onto canvases. He was making $500 per canvas, which was a lot of money in the 60s. That’s when I first realised that people could make a career from their art,” he says.
With a family who has been in the building industry for almost a century, it is no surprise that Saddington owns a 20,000 square metre industrial warehouse complex in Hamilton North. What is surprising, however, is that he is filling his warehouses with artists.
It began with James Drinkwater, a friend of Saddington’s daughter Alex. He approached Saddington for a studio for himself and wife Lottie Consalvo; the two artists worked from the space for some time.
Since then, the Clyde Street complex has developed into a hive of creatives; the practices found within representing the diversity of Newcastle’s creative industries. There is a music studio, a furniture design workshop and the Good Grief ceramics studio. Theatre company Curious Legends has also moved in.
The largest of the spaces, the Creator Incubator, has more than 24 artists whose practices include industrial design, jewellery making, painting, sculpture, lead lighting, bookbinding and stone masonry. It also has a gallery and project space for hire.
Founded in January last year by artist Braddon Snape, the Creator Incubator sprung from an increasing need for space for artists after establishments such as NAS and The Emporium were moved out of their respective properties.
“It’s been a process of evolution. There was no grand business plan or anything like that. There was the potential of the space and having someone give us the opportunity to use it how we wanted to,” he says.
Snape notes that as Renew Newcastle’s role in the city shifts into different spaces, with projects such as The Station, it has become even more important for private businesses to support the arts.
“This space would have been impossible without David. He really allowed me to take a chance on an idea, and gave me the time and space to test it out,” Snape says.
The experiment has undoubtedly been successful.
“We’ve got TAFE students coming in to learn stage production in our project space for their end-of-year assessments. Local theatre groups have staged shows in there. Different artists have also been engaged for work experience and mentoring. Each show we’ve had has brought in work for the artists working from the Incubator,” he says
When David Saddington is asked why he chose to support the arts in such a significant way, he humbly quips that he is just a landlord with patience. But it is obvious that he understands and values the role of art in building strong communities.
The Creator Incubator will host a group show and open studio to celebrate its first anniversary on May 5.