Naebono Art Studio

To a place where Sapporo and the art of right now meet

Operational members: artists Takahashi Kiyoshi (left), and Imamura Ikuko (right), and caretaker Araoka Nobutaka (center)

Located in Naebo in Sapporo, the Naebono Art Studio is a shared studio where Sapporo based contemporary artists gather. New water veins in the Sapporo art scene continue to be created from Naebo.
Words by Shibata Miyuki
Photographs by Ito Rumiko
Translation by Xene Inc.

A shared studio with a caretaker

In the Naebo area in the east of Sapporo stands a pink building. Naebo Art Studio comprises 12 rooms and a free space, and is a studio where mainly contemporary artists and creators gather. As an artists’ shared studio, it is quite large. The studio’s occupants comprise 16 artists, one NPO and a caretaker.
While being involved in real estate, the caretaker who established the studio, Araoka Nobutaka envisaged utilizing an old, empty property to create a place of interaction for older generations to nurture an interest in art, as such opportunities to come into contact with art are few and far between. This gave rise to the Naebono Art Studio.

The renovated warehouse of a former canning factory

Matching a place linked to urban development, with art (Araoka)

Araoka’s role is to deal with administrative and miscellaneous affairs, creating an environment in which the artists can immerse themselves in their creations. Artists Imamura Ikuko and Takahashi Kiyoshi both agree that “such a shared studio is rare in Japan and, for artists, it’s ideal”. From the time of establishment, they have both been involved as main operational members. “It’s not just a concentration of studios but it also, as a space, provides a chance for many people to see your work. It’s a place that connects artists but also a place that links art with the people of the city,” they add.

Someone doing the caretaking objectively, leads to creative motivation (Takahashi and Imamura)

Several times a year, an open studio event is held in which each studio is open to the public and anyone can see work being produced on site. People who normally do not have much interest in art also drop by. The aim is to allow people to see the work being produced and to provide a place for people to come into contact and interact with the artists and their work. Simultaneously, exhibitions and talk shows are held in the free space, allowing visitors to know more about forms of expression in Sapporo right now.

Events that take place in the free space (Photo courtesy of Naebono Art Studio)

Movements begin from here

Contemporary artist Yamamoto Yuki is one of the occupants of the Naebono Art Studio from when it first opened in 2017. Yamamoto was searching for a spacious studio and approached Araoka who was looking to utilize the warehouse, which triggered the birth of the art studio. As it was too spacious to use fully alone, Yamamoto approached other artists, and the project started with seven people, including Imamura and Takahashi.
According to Yamamoto, “This is a place where information about Sapporo’s current contemporary art gathers.” Through the feedback the artists receive about the things they attain from each of their activities, they deepen awareness and are stimulated, which leads to their next creations.

The best environment. Because there are other artists here, you get both stimulation and peace of mind (Yamamoto)

Many artists and people involved in art who visit Sapporo drop in to the studio to research trends. It’s now three years since the opening of the studio, which has become an important base of transmission for Sapporo’s contemporary art.
So, what does the area of Naebo mean to artists? Imamura and Takahashi say “We were not particular about the Naebo area,” adding “we are not trying to add meaning to the place from outside; movements begin from the inside of the places artists gather. Surely, urban development is a result that occurs naturally.”
Furthermore, it’s also important that there are people who become players. “When there are people like Araoka who are players that link art and the town, various people gather here. The people who gather here mix and it becomes a place where new things are created.”

As artists began to reside in the warehouse district in the east of New York, the area became the place from which the latest art-related information is transmitted. Naebo in the east of Sapporo is also an area in which warehouses and factories are concentrated.
In future, as redevelopment progresses in areas where new urban development begins, what kind of current Sapporo will be expressed?

Naebono Art Studio
Kita 2-jo Higashi 15-chome 26-28, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Japan

Imamura Ikuko
Takahashi Kiyoshi
Yamamoto Yuki
Sapporo Ekimae Street area management Co.
Think School

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