COLOUR BOX STUDIO. An Artist run space with a difference.

*All photos copyright Amie Batalibasi unless otherwise specified.

Amie Batalibasi is one fearless Woman. If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll recognise the name – the prolific freelance filmmaker/Community Arts facilitator was my Pacific Stories producer, with the equally fearless Lia Pa’apa’a (PWWC). This year, in an effort to liberate a spare room and find an appropriate space to set up a new film studio/office, she came across a rental property in her beloved ‘hood of Footscray: 236 Nicholson Street.

236 Nicholson Street has a bit of a history. And by “a bit”, I mean a lot of crazy shit has gone down at 236 Nicholson Street. Prior to Amie finding the place, the building was the home of Tattoos Plus, a tattoo parlour (of course). In another incarnation, it was a Goth club, complete with sex room and swing. It is next door to the run-down Belgravia Hotel (built in 1870), which has its own crazy history (read: fight club), and 236 has an entire floor that is inaccessible, because the staircase leading up to it was removed and boarded up years ago.

It is amazing to think about the history of this unassuming building, and how it fits in with the history of the area. But despite its unassuming façade, Amie sensed that history, and the future potential of the space. Though it was the search for the perfect studio that led her there, it was in fact another dream that came to the fore upon inspecting the premises: what if, she pondered, she could open up a space run by and for ARTISTS in Melbourne – a supportive space where makers could pursue, perform, hone, sell and share their craft? A place where the ethos of COMMUNITY was truly a guiding and empowering principle?

Colour Box Studio conception… on paper*

And that’s when the fearlessness kicked in. In October, Amie acquired the keys to the joint, with conditions – the biggest one being that she has only a year to manifest this dream – to fill No. 236 with artists and creativity – before it is redeveloped into a “12 Storey Mixed Use Development” by some corporation. Knowing this, she signed the lease, and resolved to make it happen, for no personal financial profit.

Are you familiar with the term “crazy awesome”? I believe this is the very definition of that term. Finally have a reason to use it in a sentence.

The place as it was when she acquired those keys needed A LOT of work. So she put out a call to the artists in her circles and beyond in Melbourne, for their help to manifest the dream. Thankfully, many answered: over 6 weeks and weekends of volunteer working bees, the space was transformed. Floors were swept. Rubbish was cleared. Holes were fixed. Things were painted, nailed and stripped. Even the old piercing room was torn down! Thus began an extraordinary and semi-intentional exercise in urban regeneration.

Of course, an Artists Run Space needs artists to run it – free-thinking and competent creative people + art managers with “outside the box” ideas – and ART. Once again, out of the void of possibility, they came forth too… with ideas to boot. I spent most of the meeting pictured below being a fly on the wall, listening and learning and taking down copious notes on what all these impressive people were coming out with. 

Early Colour Box Studio Meeting, captured by Lia.

First bit of business for Colour Box Studio was Amie’s own idea: a POP-UP SHOP [currently open!], to introduce the transforming space to the public, as well as give talented and entrepreneurial ARTISTS, DESIGNERS & CRAFT MAKERS a chance to showcase their wares from November 7th to Christmas – and to run workshops if they wanted to. Artists that came forward to be involved included: AACUTE, ABLE AND GAME, AK-ADORNMENTS, AMBETTE, BRITLYN SIMONE JEWELLERY, CERAMIC RELIEF, CHARLOTTE FILSHIE JEWELLERY, HANNAKIN, LEAF UGS, LITTLE BUBALISHKA, MILK AND COOKIES, NEW MODEL BEAUTY QUEEN, NORTH ST. FLOWERS, PACIFIC WOMENS WEAVING CIRCLE, PRETTY WAK, RED BIRD HONEWARES, STUDIO 941, TWOTREEHOUSE, AND WOULD BE GOOD. Wow.

Volunteers once again helped transform the space for the pop-up shop and launch (viva community!), and some magnificent people donated shop fittings.

Artist/interior designer Christina, along with Jon and Ben (who together were the shop interior design team) also volunteered her skills to essentially set up and build the interior of the shop (which looks sensational):

A great poster promoting the Pop-Up Shop and its launch – a launch that featured a fashion show and performances, among other things – was created by talented Art Director Tony Tran. The posters also featured the new Colour Box Studio logo: created by the brilliant Jacob Tolo of Tologata Designs (and Blak Dot Gallery):

Right up to the POP-UP shop launch eve, volunteers gathered in preparation:

Finally, where there was once literally nothing but a dilapidated building destined for demolition, emerged all of this: 

Photos below by Rachel Main (copyright Rachel Main):

Pre-existing graffiti. Want to paint something over it, or do something with this space? Contact Colour Box Studio!

And this really is just the beginning. An Artist Run Space needs creative people to USE IT, manage it, keep it running. And there are so many parts of the space that could be used in very creative ways. Example: this alleyway with visible wall space, to the side of No. 236, is just begging to be filled/covered/et cetera with public art:

*Photo taken shortly after Council came and cleaned up the alley in October – that Tattoo sign isn’t there anymore!

In fact, one piece has already been “installed”:

*Currently in the Colour Box Studio alley way as part of Footscray on the Edge.

So. Keeping in mind how this venture came to be in the first place, are YOU possibly in possession of some fearless ideas, and the dedication to see them through to fruition, with the support of Colour Box Studio? Or, perhaps, are you just looking for a space to do what you want to do, creatively? Or do you just want to collaborate in something truly inspired by a love of art and community? Whatever the case may be, Colour Box Studio Director Amie Batalibasi wants to hear from you!

The website features information on how to get involved, make contact, and everything that is happening at Colour Box Studio. Currently the Pop-Up Shop is OPEN for business, AK-ADORNMENTS continues it’s residency in-shop, and workshops are in full swing (last night I learned how to make a bilum with Aunty Vicky Kinai – so pleased!!!).



On a personal note, this has been a week of phenomenally good news that I am profoundly grateful for 🙂 I can’t discuss it yet, but the next 12 months are going to be creatively challenging – I guess I’m ready to write now, because opportunity is flowing in that direction. There is much work to be done (inside and out), and not having a FT job still makes me anxious as heck. Nonetheless, am endeavouring to keep in consciousness one of the most important lessons learned this year: to LET GO, and JUST GO WITH IT.

Spiritual wanderlust for the win 😉 The one aspect of this little life that is consistently wonderful.