Tortuga was established by artists involved with Mekanarky Studios, located in the famed Ice Cream Factory in Turrella. Reputedly one of Sydney’s largest ARIs, and home to industrial sculptors, metalworkers, setbuilders, fine artists and more in 3.4 hectares of sticky industrial wonderland, 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 – in February 2008, Tortuga Studios rose from the ashes, gleaming with intent. 

We are warehouse people, lovers of saw-toothed rooves, peeling paint, shredded steel, vast gnarly machines, 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.

‘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’.

Jasmine Poole


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…


Our mission is the provision and protection of affordable and for-purpose industrial space for creatives and cultural producers, as well as the safeguarding of the richly nuanced arts community we are a part of. 

Tortuga is a buttress within Sydney’s creative infrastructure, providing space, inspiration, community and security – and that is like stardust in today’s shifting real-estate sands.

We believe that in the face of rampant residential development there needs to be mandatory protection of inner-city industrial areas, and recognition of their innate value to the broader cultural infrastructure of the city. These “forgotten” spaces are not “void”. They are billed as “ripe for development” because of their “negative aesthetics”, and yet this is their inherent value to those who use them.

General Industrial IN1 zoning specifies 24-hour access, heavy truck movement, industrial-grade power provision, building stock that encompasses high ceilinged access, internal and external hard stand, and no restrictions on noise, all of which are imperative for the for-purpose cultural production the creatives we support undertake. If these industrial areas are razed in favour of high-profit residential, the fabric of the creative sector is irreparably damaged.