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Art Central, a collection of galleries and studio space in downtown Calgary, has fewer working artists than it originally did, tenants say. ((Google Street View) )

Some tenants of downtown Calgary's Art Central complex say the bold cultural experiment hasn't quite turned out the way it was intended.

The three-story collection of art galleries, studios and related shops opened six years ago at the corner of Centre Street and 7th Avenue S.W.

It was billed as a place where art would intersect with the community, a place for local artists to do their work and for Calgarians to come and browse and buy.

But according to tenant Luna Todorovic, the collection of businesses has changed over the years. And it's no longer the right mix to support her art supply shop, she said.

So Todorovic isn't renewing her lease when it expires in a few months.

"There used to be more artists in Art Central. So now it's more retail shops, which isn't a bad thing. It's just, there's less artists," she said.

Expensive downtown leases and challenging economic times have seen Art Central attract more retail stores and fewer studios, agreed Rob Mabee, who owns Axis Contemporary Art in the complex.

"It may have not been exactly what we sought it out to be. But art businesses are fragile, difficult to be successful with, especially with a global recession," he said.

But building owner David Neill is optimistic about Art Central and the future of art in Calgary.

"It's one of the first things to be cut from disposable income, but not necessarily the last to recover," he said.