Tortuga has been established by a number of artist involved with Mekanarky Studios, located in the famed Ice Cream Factory in Turrella, and reputedly one of Sydney’s largest self-funded, artist-run initiatives. In December 2007, Mekanarky melted in the fierce glare of the developers’ sights. Pooling disconsolately into the gutters of the inner west, we needed somewhere to go – and Tortuga Studios was born.

We are warehouse people, lovers of saw-toothed rooves, peeling paint, shredded steel, vast gnarly machines squatting in corners, rusted pipes, jagged metal and time-worn concrete. There is soul in these old places, lingering memory often lost and forgotten. Mekanarky died an ungainly death, crumbling into asbestos-laced piles neatly removed by a contract digger. Tortuga is likely to go the same way, but before she collapses with a weary sigh, we are proud to re-interpret her space, playing on the ambiguity we create – a spatial designer in an old brick factory? Why not…

In the words of Jasmine Poole, ‘in light of the churning process of gentrification we question the current reality of cultural gain versus capital gain by entertaining the idea that alternate realities can begin to thrive in these spaces.’


The name Tortuga is borrowed from Isla Tortuga, a pirates’ hideout off the coast of Haiti. Named for its turtle-like shape, Tortuga was a free-trade pirate port, outside the jurisdictions of the authorities. Featured in the works of Raphael Sabatini, Tortuga is an elusive place of inky seas and leather-bound land, steeped in mystery, brimming with treasure and waiting to be found…


We believe that even in the face of rampant development the inner city warehouse space has a place, providing space and opportunity for emergent and established artists to develop and grow, drawing inspiration from their environment.

Tortuga Studios is an eclectic collaborative space, forged with promise and talent and fuelled by artistic passion. Over the years it has become an effective platform for artists and creatives of all disciplines to network, produce and exhibit.