The Vacant Arts Premises Scheme has been in existence in Waterford City since 2007. Under the Waterford Rural Arts Network scheme (2016 – 2021 Arts Plan) this scheme is now being rolled out by the Arts Service across the County. It’s a fast track rates waiver scheme operated by the Council to allow empty commercial spaces be used by Artists for the betterment of the community.
Under current legislation rates can be waived, at the discretion of the Local Authority, for the purposes of Education, Religion, Art and Vacancy itself as long as no commercial activity is taking place. In other words – No rent is being paid and nothing is sold.
We have four basic schemes – one where the building owner leases the building directly to the Council to be used for non-profit artist spaces – the second being where the Council has a three way contract, the third is for existing studios that the Council controls and the fourth where their is a partnership with the Council and an Arts Organisation/Group.
How we work it is that, in conjunction with an Arts group, a building at risk is identified. We, or the group, contact the owners directly (when possible) and offer to oversee a situation where the building is basically maintained, aired, used, where the exterior ground floor area is cleaned/painted, the building insured and utilities maintained and guaranteed for a set period. Rates are fast-tracked to be waivered (locally) and a small honorarium is paid after 12 months of usage (between €100 and €400 depending on the size and usage). The owner is allowed access to the building at all times and if s/he has a commercial renter/buyer lined up or just wants to remove it from the scheme – there is a guarantee the Arts group will vacate within an eight week period.
What we look for from the Artists is:
- A note indemnifying the Council and the owner
- Proof of insurance
- Guarantee of utility payments
- Guarantee of communal work on the building (Management Plan and Work Plan eg painting exterior in agreed colour etc)
What we look for from the Owner:
- The building to be H&S compliant (it must satisfy the CFO)
- The building to be unoccupied with no other strings applied
The Council operates a lower supervisory role and acts as a guarantor for utilities etc. In both cases the Council looks for personal indemnities from all artists, proof of PPL and Personal insurance (the Arts Service will also investigate whether an existing insurance group scheme can be extended to lower the cost burden on new artists to the scheme). The Council underwrites Bricks and Mortar Insurance. On this scheme we currently have one Building from the Munster Express and three buildings owned by the Council itself.
This is for Artists studios in buildings that the Council own or have a direct agreement with landlords/owners. The Council administers the building and the studios within and when in demand runs strict criteria for the artists that rent the studios. Basically the Council tries to attain a mix between junior and senior artists as well as between genres. When there is space available the Council will often consider temporary projects.
Artist Studio Spaces – Waterford City
This is where the Council has either provided a building or has leased a building for the purposes of Gallery and Studio spaces. In this case it is up to the management of the building to offer terms for studio spaces (e.g. Garter Lane, GOMA Waterford, Rogue Studios).
We have found the schemes to be efficient, easy to handle and have halted dereliction and unsocial behaviour wherever we have implemented it.
If you are interested in the scheme download the relevant form, fill it in and send it to the Arts Service.