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Youth lounge in Taranaki Street will be inclusive, safe, creative, welcoming

taranaki street

News from Urban Dream Brokerage
Urban Dream Brokerage and Mouthfull Collective come together to fill an essential gap for the city’s youth – presenting ‘Commonspace’. For three months+ in 2021, the doors at 113 Taranaki Street will be open for an inclusive, safe, creative, welcoming and much needed, central city youth lounge.

Rangitahi of Wellington have found it increasingly difficult to have safe common spaces in Wellington over the last few years. The housing crisis has amplified this with the need for youth often turning their lounges into bedrooms, depriving them of decent communal space, even in their flats. Alongside this, our city has still been under the long shadow of earthquake resilience, closing many previously frequented sites and adding to the lack of safety at night, particularly along our noted entertainment strip of Courtenay Place. This amongst other factors, has caused a crisis of safe space.

Urban Dream Brokerage recognised this need, and with strong support from the Wellington City Council and Creative NZ, have given the opportunity to the wonderful Mouthfull Collective to create their own youth lounge for the city – Commonspace, at 113 Taranaki St, is the second in a series of commissioned works from Urban Dream Brokerage. The commissions are led by artists who are interested in creating space that aims to engage and encourage the public to participate, whilst often bringing new life to vacant spaces. The first of these commissions, released earlier in 2021, was Electromagnetic Geographies, an artists’ workshop and exhibition led by critical engineer Julian Oliver, which has since been nominated for the NZ Open Source Awards.

Commonspace aspires to be “a beacon of humanity, creativity and community,” a place to come to refuel your life force by engaging with new people, stories, experiences, information – or a place to simply be with no expectation of doing. The space operates Wednesdays to Sundays, 10am to 10pm daily and is free for all who enter. A mix of predetermined engaging events, along with a place to just be, Mouthfull creates an enlightening mix of offerings from their vast array of creative partnerships.

From album launches, yoga & meditation, community dinners, film screenings, creative workshops, to their peoples choir – On top of this is the safe space to just be.

“The ‘Commonspace’ kaupapa is to empower young practitioners to share techniques, knowledge, and activities as well as enliven an inner city community through participating in different forms of being. We’ve had over 30 events after our first month open, giving well over 400 people a place to be in the midst of Wellington winter” – Jack Gittings – Mouthfull

Commonspace originally opened its doors softly late in July. Quickly finding its feet, a solid groove and an ever growing community. This was paused with the reappearance of Covid 19 in the community. Commonspace transformed its space and took its community and ideals online. Allowing them to continue to carry and support the Commonspace community through their various channels throughout the lockdown. They are now excited and ready to open their doors again to welcome people back both in person and online.

The reopening under Level 2 will be dutifully handled with all relevant protocols followed and based on government advice.

This reopening is particularly important as lockdowns can be isolating for many. Commonspace will, as such, be a welcome antidote. Doors will be open again officially from Sept 9th and now through to the extended date of October 31st, with an even stronger offering.. Workshops and events will take place in a variety of formats, either online, indoors with social distancing, or outdoors in a variety of ‘Common Spaces’.

“It’s a reviving feeling to be in the middle of the whirlwind that is an inner city community space; at a time where places of genuine whakawhanaungatanga and beingness are scarce to come by. So many people have come in and out of this temporary living room for the city in the first month, it has hosted numerous wonderful events and provides both a platform and a safe space for young creatives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara to connect, inspire and empower one another. There is mutual gratitude and respect in the process of listening, coordinating and facilitating – between the growing network of participants, the artists and supervisors, and the incredibly supportive people of Urban Dream Brokerage, Letting Space and WCC.” – Ollie Hutton – Mouthfull

“We need more places like this in the city, like a living room where you can just drink tea and hangout” – Rangi, a member of the public who frequents Commonspace.

“There’s a unique and quite indescribable feeling of discovering a space that your heart yearns for.” – Courtenay Rose Brown – Commonspace Blog piece

From Mouthfull:

Commonspace is a space of being and belonging, enlivening an inner city whanaungatanga in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. A place to explore what it means to be in the commons and to actively engage in de-siloing, cross-pollinating different disciplines and demographics.

At its heart, the value of Commonspace has been invisible and immeasurable as this living room of the city exists and grows in the spaces between. Between coming and going, becoming and arriving, the connections between different people. Without access to a physical space to host events, to bring people together and feel the whanaungatanga in the city – we realised that the essence of what we were cultivating was an indistinct but ubiquitous quality of ‘community’. It exists in the invisible space between people, and when that space was widened over lockdown we began to ponder how this sense of human connection can still be felt and nurtured while we were isolated in our bubbles.

From the beginning of the project, we felt that our place in Te Whanganui-a-Tara was acting as a node/switchboard of the city – connecting people with resources, organisations and other people in order to mutually uplift one another. There are so many absolutely wonderful, supportive, inspiring movements and initiatives out there but we were aware that some may be too siloed or inaccessible from the people who need them. That we would be “a beacon of humanity, creativity and community” a place to come to refuel your life force by engaging with new people, stories, experiences, information – or a place to simply be with no expectation of doing or spending money.

With everyone at home, we began to activate the ‘digital commons’ by pointing out online happenings from our extended network and sharing them on our Instagram & website. Artists and event facilitators were also able to share their practice into this space through Zoom calls, making & sharing videos, Instagram live streams, or broadcasting on Mouthfull Radio. We activated a virtual space during several events over lockdown, on a website called gather.town shown to us by one of our Commonspace kaitiaki Naomi Joy Smith, this is also where we held our weekly team meetings too. In Level 2 we will reopen the doors, being conscientious of 2m social distancing during events and still offering online activations. Delve into the ongoing story more at www.common-space.nz and contribute to the conversation, we’re open 10am – 10pm Wednesday – Sunday at 113 Taranaki St until the 31st October.

“Places to ‘be’ have increasingly become less prevalent and more exclusive; a transaction of money exchanged for a beverage [and the right to be] in a café/bar, memberships, institutional education. So many spaces in our current climate require a transaction to belong. ‘Commonspace’ is an exploration in critique of this. What can an alternative look like? How can this city enable growth in the arts? The ‘Commonspace’ kaupapa is to empower young practitioners to share techniques, knowledge, and activities as well as enliven an inner city community through participating in different forms of being. We’ve had over 30 events after our first month open, giving well over 400 people a place to be in the midst of Wellington winter.

Urban Dream Brokerage have been exploring a similar insight in reclaiming spaces for arts in Pōneke. As well as providing a supportive platform for artistic expressions in physical space by connecting private partners to community-minded arts-focused organisations, they also weave an important network in the collective arts. Cultivating this community bolsters and uplifts the practitioners involved, ultimately enriching Te Whanganui-a-Tara’s environment through creative practice.” – Jack Gittings – Mouthfull

About Mouthfull:

Mouthfull is a multi-media arts collective centred in Pōneke, Aotearoa. With a background in film and an emphasis on community events Mouthfull strive to connect, inspire and re-enchant people from all walks (stories) of life (art).

Through creation, curation and facilitation of artworks, experiences and spaces ~~~ Mouthfull manoeuvres an experimental, collaborative and compassionate approach to exploring the notion of consciously consuming (in all its forms). This sometimes takes shape in immersive installations, guided tours, workshops, improvised performance, radio broadcasting, and the occasional interview.

We’re all about supporting the arts that surround us ~ bringing people together to learn (or unlearn) how our experiences shape us, and how we can, through love, become more understood and connected.

About Urban Dream Brokerage:

Urban Dream Brokerage (UDB) was established in 2012 by Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery as part of their Letting Space entity under the umbrella of Wellington Independent Arts Trust. UDB has found spaces around New Zealand for over 120 creative projects with more than 40 property owners, allowing the artists’ work to infuse energy into the properties while new tenants were found. UDB encourages creative and social practitioners to reimagine how they present their work to the public by providing engagement and participation, bringing new life to vacant spaces. UDB is managed by Jason Muir and Linda Lee.

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