IT’S hidden down some back streets, it showcases the work of up-and-coming artists, and you can get a great cup of coffee there. Yes, the Rose Street Artist Market couldn’t be more Melbourne. Yet few seem to know about this little gem.
Founded in 2002 by Melbourne artist Adam Ferrante, the market was inspired by similar projects in London and Berlin, and in particular the DUMBO collective, an artist-run market under New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.
But at its core, the project is very Melbourne. As rents started to skyrocket in inner-city Fitzroy – where the market is located – artists and designers who had studios in the area, or were displaying in the trendy suburb’s galleries, were beginning to be forced out.
And so the need for a cheap place to display their creations, says Ferrante’s brother and business partner, Christian.
“It really was just an alternative avenue for emerging artists and designers to get their products out there,” Christian says.
Fitzroy – with its eclectic vibe, abundant live music venues and quality street art – has long been the centre of Melbourne’s more quirky arts scene.
“It was kind of just by chance that the space was available, and it just happened to be in Fitzroy,” Christian says.
“But we’ve always grown up in the area, so it kind of had a special place for us, and obviously Fitzroy as an arts space and a hub for artists – it’s always been an artists precinct, so it just fit hand in hand really.”
In a sense, the market started off as a family affair. The brothers’ father had been using the land that now hosts the market back when it was a panel beater’s scrapyard. Soon after Adam started the project, Christian – who has a background in marketing and advertising – came on board.
“The combination of his creativity and ideas and my business background is a good combination – it allows us to bring ideas to fruition,” Christian says.
Another creative duo, who have been setting up shop at the market for six years, are husband and wife Ben and Natalie Mason. Under the name Rebound Books, they create journals, calendars and the like, using the covers of vintage books and records.
The idea came in part from a desire to recycle old materials, and in part because the couple’s bookshelves could no longer sustain the weight of their vintage book collection.
“We were like a puppy shelter. We were a shelter for old books,” Natalie laughs.
Rebound Books now retail in shops and at markets all around Australia, but the company had humble beginnings.
“We had our first stall at Rose St in 2005. So we’ve been there since the very beginning of our business…it was the only place we were selling them for the first six months or so,” Natalie says.
“I think Rose St is a fantastic place for people who are just starting to make things to get a sense of whether a supportive audience will embrace their product.”
The market is a great stop for those looking to explore Melbourne’s nooks and crannies.
“It’s down a laneway…and once you walk down, all of a sudden the whole space opens up. It’s one of those little things where you walk down the street and you find a discovery that not many people would know about,” Christian says.
“You’re also viewing a real piece of Melbourne in terms of the people who are displaying their work and the products that they have on show, so it’s a quintessential Melbourne experience.”