The best artist-run initiatives (ARIs) in Sydney

Want to see the bleeding edge of Sydney's art scene? These galleries and spaces, run by artists themselves, are a good place to start.

Photography: Kit Baker107 Projects: United Walls (March 2015) featuring work by Penelope Benton and Alexandra Clapham

If you're after emerging and experimental art, the best place to look is the independent spaces run by artists themselves, who tend to be more focused on the production of interesting work than profitable work. Sydney has a healthy ecosystem of artist-run initiatives (ARIs) – here are some key ones to get you started.

Sydney ARIs


Australia's longest-running artist-led initiative, Firstdraft's charter is the development and exhibition of emerging and experimental art and art practise. It is run by a team of eight volunteer directors (all either practicing artists or arts professionals) on a staggered two-year term, with an annual rollover of four directors.


Boomalli Aboriginal Artists’ Co-op

Boomalli’s focus on contemporary urban Aboriginal art (primarily from NSW) sets it apart from most indigenous galleries, which tend to prefer regional works. The gallery has associations or past links with many of Australia’s foremost indigenous artists, including co-founders Michael Riley, Brenda L Croft, Tracey Moffatt.



This artist-run space, opened on Redfern Street in 2011, features a sound-proof performance space, a gallery, a cafe and bar, a workshop, and a permaculture garden on the roof. Head there for performances, workshops, life-drawing classes, gigs and exhibitions.


Alaska Projects

This artist-run-iniative was established in 2011 by Sebastian Goldspink, for the purposes of showcasing contemporary art in unused and abandoned spaces. Its first project, titled Car Park, is an ongoing gallery that is housed on an underground level of a Kings Cross car park.

Elizabeth Bay

Wellington St Projects

This artist-run-initiative was founded by Belem Lett and Katherine Brickman in March 2013, within the bottom level of a warehouse of studio spaces.


China Heights

This ARI (artist-run initiative) was founded in 2004 by Edward Woodley, Michael Sharp and Mark Drew – three pals who straddled the divide between fine art and design/creative work. The roster of shows at Heights reflects this, with an emphasis on creative slashies, street art, graphic design and low-brow.

Surry Hills

Kudos Gallery

Located in the heritage-listed St Sophia Hall, this gallery was established in 1998 to give students of UNSW Art + Design school (formerly College of Fine Arts) the opportunity to present in a gallery space off campus. Kudos exhibits a diverse range of work by artists from first year through to post-grad; it is run by the student body ARC.



Since 2005, Sydney Non Objective has been showcasing non-objective contemporary art, across multiple galleries within the space.


Verge Gallery

Administered by the University of Sydney Union, Verge is also open to the general public and programs exhibitions that feature works by current and former students as well as further afield. It is currently curated by Siân McIntyre, formerly part of the Paper Mill curatorium.



This ‘Not-Only-Artist Run Initiative’ in Marrickville is a three bedder that’s been turned into a multi-purpose creative space complete with kitchen garden and research library. The aim here is to build community by allowing participation and collaboration between people with a passion for culture. It’s a place where the process of making art is just as important as the result.


Airspace Projects

This artist-run initiative (ARI), founded in 2014 by artists Sally Clarke and Brenda Factor, has four exhibition spaces, a residency space, and can host workshops, talks and events. Airspace is open the first three weeks of the month, for the following hours:  Week 1Fri 11am-6pm (exhibition preview) / 6-8pm (exhibition opening night); Sat 11am-5pmWeek 2Thu & Fri 11am-6pm; Sat 11am-5pmWeek 3Thu & Fri 11am-6pm; Sat 11am-5pm  


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Gianni W

Seriously this is the limit of your selection of good Artist Run Initiatives? What about Knulp ( It has huge and amazing history from its previous incarnation as Blau Grau. It has contributed hugely to contemporary art in this city. Or 55 Sydenham Rd ( Another key ARI. Or Wellington St Projects? 

And for a recent list: Airspace Projects

Alaska Projects
Articulate Project Space
Big Fag Press
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative
Chalk Horse
China Heights
Clay Workers
Factory 49
Gallery Eight
Interlude Gallery
Marrickville Garage
Mils Gallery
MOP Projects

Stacks Projects
Tortuga Studios
The Red Rattler
The Wired Lab
Underbelly Arts
Wellington St Projects
107 Projects
55 Sydenham Rd

Dee J

@Gianni W Thanks for the suggestions. As you you can see, we've said "here are ten key ARIs to get you started", we haven't claimed to offer a comprehensive list. We appreciate tips about good spaces.