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Make/Shift Spaces is a new initiative to make use of some of our empty retail spaces while their owners look for new tenants.


You may have noticed a new addition to Nelson central city over the last few months. Make/Shift Spaces is a new initiative to make use of some of our empty retail spaces while their owners look for new tenants.

As a not-for-profit organisation, Make/Shift Spaces isn’t about putting in “pop-up” retail spaces, but rather it’s about creating opportunities for artists, creatives, community and special interest groups who can fill a space with vibrant installations, activities and stories.

Since revealing our first project in August 2019, Make/Shift Spaces has featured:

  • 300 Dolly Parton wannabes
  • 250 individual artworks featuring 250 10c coins given away to the public
  • 200 post-it notes with brilliant Big Ideas about our city’s development
  • 24 happy babies
  • 12 fantastical edible (and totally delicious) architecture cakes
  • 10 very contented cows
  • 4 mask-making workshops
  • 1 pop-up park, complete with potted plants, table, chairs, umbrella and beanbags
  • 1 very astute butcher (watched by 3 hopeful dogs)

Make/Shift Spaces is building relationships with property owners and real estate agents who are keen to be involved in bringing life and creativity to our smart little city. While some of the spaces can be accessed for activities (like Nelson Arts Festival with its mix of shows and workshops, and the Festival of Architecture with its drop-in space), many of the spaces require maintenance and refurbishment in-between tenants. This makes for a great opportunity for storytelling on the windows, like the Ann Bird photo and story in Trafalgar Street.

Make/Shift Spaces is part of a global movement to re-use, re-invigorate and re-present un-used spaces in our cities. Because all the spaces are temporary, Make/Shift Spaces is about short-term solutions with long-term effects. We’re not aiming to fill every empty space at once, but rather work on a progressive roll-out, and being clever about matching the right project with the right space.

Right now, we have three Make/Shift Spaces that are great examples of what we can do:

  • The Bird Butcher Shop of Trafalgar Street – working with Nelson Provincial Museum
  • Viewfinder Window in Trafalgar Street – presenting monthly installations https://www.viewfinderwindow.com
  • Sally Burton’s White Gold in Bridge Street – all those lovely cows in ex-Graham’s Trading

If you’ve got a great idea for how to use a Make/Shift Space, or if you’re a property owner who is interested in being involved, go to www.makeshiftspaces.nz

You can follow us on https://www.facebook.com/makeshiftspacesnz/ and https://www.instagram.com/makeshiftspacesnz/ so that you’re in the know about where Make/Shift Spaces will be next!

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