THE first of many creative spaces set to revive Wagga's empty shopfronts are ready to open their doors this week.
RENEW Wagga is the latest initiative by Eastern Riverina Arts in conjunction with commercial property owners to both shine a light on the potential of the vacant shop spaces as well as injecting creativity into the community.
ERA creative business officer Claire Harris said seeing the three-year project take off was exciting.
"We've all noticed the empty shopfronts along the main street, and it doesn't look good, it doesn't feel good, so having these new creative spaces for people to come to and engage with will both increase foot traffic in the area and give these artists a chance to build their creative businesses," she said.
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A photography workshop space and an art gallery are the first two creative spaces to open as part of the program, including James Farley and Patrick Ronald's f.Stop Workshop.
Mr Farley said photography has been a part of his studies, life and work for his "whole adult life", so to share that with the community was an exciting next step.
"Patrick and I met as artists in photography over 10 years ago, but we really connected over this idea of being from - and being for - regional areas," he said.
"We both love talking to people about photography and promoting art, so we can't wait to open the doors to this space."
The idea for f.Stop Workshop dates back to Mr Farley's teenage years, with the launch proving to be a dream come true.
"I was in Year 11 doing business studies, and I wrote a business plan for an art gallery called f.Stop Gallery, that was my dream to open that one day, and now I have been able to bring that to life thanks to RENEW and Patrick," he said.
"The difference is, this will be workshop focused for everyone, be it someone who has never picked up a camera before, through to high-end digital studio work and more."
Fellow creator Maggie Deall has also opened her own art gallery as part of RENEW, and for her, it was also a "dream come true".
"I didn't think this would be possible," she said.
"I've literally been able to start a business in six weeks."
Ms Deall's artwork has been a form of escape from her full-time job as a police sergeant in Wagga, with mental health a prominent focus of her work.
"Being involved in the emergency services, I understand a lot about PTSD, mental trauma and mental health, and my art was my way to build resilience within myself, but now it has become something more than that," she said.
"This is something I wouldn't have been able to do on my own probably for another couple of years at least."
The two creative spaces will officially launch of Thursday night at 43 Tompson Street, Wagga.
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