New kid on art block: Let’s Pretend in Prahran

Recently opened, Let’s Pretend is a new, artist-run gallery dedicated to promoting and showcasing art and its makers and creators with the goal of building a supportive creative hub.

Born in 2022 and based in the vibrant, cultural and business end of Commercial Road, Prahran, Let’s Pretend opened in April in a former shoe store left vacant for more than three years. With their first exhibition, Mixed Messages, a solo show by Bailer, a Melbourne-based multi-disciplinary artist.

With decades of expertise and experience, local resident and co-gallery owner/director Paul saw a real gap in the local art scene and the right community space to do art.

It was a brave, bold move to open, but the timing could not have been better as there was a real appetite for reinvigorating the local art scene. Let’s Pretend is a breath of fresh air with a wide lens on supporting abstract, contemporary, fine art, stained glass, woodwork, sculpture, digital media, non-fungible token (NFT), augmented reality, virtual reality, underground, subversive, counterculture, emerging technology and street art forms.

Paul has been painting for more than 20 years as a public artist, working with many councils to produce or help coordinate large-scale mural projects such as the St Kilda tram junction street art project. He has done art-based youth work, using art as a catalyst for change, connection and personal growth with at-risk youth. He has maintained a studio practice and been involved in numerous group exhibitions and three solo exhibitions.

Paul said they were lucky to get generous support with a grant from the City of Stonnington to host a range of art exhibitions, pop ups and other creative experiences without charging the artists an arm and a leg.

“We came up with the plan to set up a gallery and art studio so we could have even more people involved, then went about putting our business plan and grant proposal together. After receiving the grant, we got to work, and with the help of many friends and family members, renovated and opened the space,” said Paul.

The team converted the two-storey former shoe store into a massive ground floor exhibition space with a first floor artists’ studio and Let’s Pretend Gallery began.

The successful collaboration was supported to get started by our Business Concierge Service (BCS). The BCS worked closely with the gallery to get them up to speed with the knowledge and advice regarding building, planning, local laws and health information. They provided information about types of permits required to open to facilitate a smooth process and work within their tight timeframes to set up, open and keep operating.

Paul and the team found the BCS useful – helping them find the right department to contact and the right person to talk to. They found the program fluid and response times incredibly efficient.

“Being newbies on the block, it’s great to have a service that saves time and avoids any confusion or frustration. We’ll continue using the Business Concierge Service for clarification as we keep growing. Anyone with a new or existing business should hit up the service,” said Paul.

There are many reasons why they choose to set up shop in Stonnington. As well as being only a stone’s throw away from home, Paul sees the Chapel Street precinct abuzz with activity right now.

“It feels like the 90s again. The streets are jam-packed at night and there is a generally great vibe. We know there is also the need for our space – the north side has plenty of contemporary, modern and street art-styled galleries but the south side seemed a little lacking in that same welcoming, electric energy. We wanted to create a space in the south where everyone felt welcome – you don’t need to have studied fine art or be wearing a Rolex to be welcomed into our space. When we were on the lookout for spaces, we knew we wanted to be south from day one, so to find this amazing location, right opposite Prahran Market is awesome.

“Many people are out and about, enjoying their day and they will pop in. Ultimately, Stonnington has been formative to all members of the team I work with. It felt natural to put something back into the community after spending so many years traipsing up and down these streets, for drinks, dinner, being with friends and shopping. These streets are familiar and we want to be a part of the revitalisation in this post-lockdown landscape,” said Paul.

Cr Marcia Griffin, a key driver behind establishing the BCS visited the business shortly after it opened to meet with Paul and the team.

“I am passionate about supporting small business, and was proud to drive the creation of a Business Concierge Program to cut through red tape and help businesses open and grow in Stonnington,” said Cr Griffin.

“I loved visiting Let’s Pretend, and am delighted that such a creative new space has joined our Stonnington business community.

“This is an example of Council supporting businesses instead of getting in the way. Helping people through clear information and support from our Business and Concierge Program, as well as our arts and cultural grants.

“What a wonderful addition to Prahran, I wish Paul and the team all the very best,” added Cr Griffin.

Learn more

Arts and Culture Grants

Business support from the City of Stonnington

Want to get your art fix?

Check out Let’s Pretend

204 Commercial Road, Prahran

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