NFASP: Developing a studio strategy in Kent 2010

The draft Cultural Strategy for Kent is welcomed by NFASP for strongly championing the strength in the county’s visual arts. Here is a summary of NFASP Director Val Millington’s response from 2010:

NFASP applauds the vision of this draft Cultural Strategy for Kent. It’s a refreshingly clear document and it is encouraging to see that the county’s strength in the visual arts and the wider creative sector is to be so strongly supported.

We also welcome the reference to the National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers (NFASP) and to our hosting a forthcoming national conference of studio providers in East Kent. And NFASP looks forward to working with Kent County Council on developing future initiatives to support artists’ workspace in Kent.

Developing Artists' Studios:
We also welcome the references to the development of artists’ studios in Kent and would like to see greater emphasis on the potential of such infrastructure development to enhance provision for local communities, as well as the opportunity it offers for artists to make art.

Research has shown that secure, affordable workspace for the long-term enables artists to develop the confidence to build relationships and make a significant contribution to their local community as well as the wider cultural sector. 

NFASP has made clear that, currently, there are no precise demand figures for studio provision in East Kent but that there are certainly indications of a demand through NFASP’s knowledge and enquiries received, and as part of a high demand for secure, affordable studios throughout the country.  

Safeguarding live/work spaces:
NFASP also has pointed out that the development of any live/work spaces should be carefully regulated and safe-guarded to ensure there is sufficient emphasis on the ‘work’ part of the premises and that its continuing use as live/workspace is maintained, rather than reverting to residential use. 

Fit-for-purpose studios:
We would also urge a note of caution in respect of converting buildings to creative workspace and artists’ studios. Research has shown that the majority of buildings used for artists’ studios are not fit for purpose (often in poor condition, poor environmentally, lacking disability access etc).

Whilst we would welcome the sensitive conversion and upgrading of heritage buildings for use as creative workspace and artists’ studios, we would also urge Kent County council to take a lead in developing new, fit-for-purpose studios with appropriate development partners such as housing associations. This action may currently be trying to address diverse agendas.

Many buildings used for cultural activity are not entirely fit for purpose and the initial decision to use them was often born out of expediency rather than choice. It would be valuable for any review of which buildings remain relevant, to focus on the activity being provided and the suitability of the buildings for their intended purpose. This approach could fill gaps in provision, but also replace current provision where it is no longer fit-for-purpose.

This is certainly the case with many artists’ studios and some studio providers, such as Acme in London, are finding that they are looking to develop new workspace because using historic buildings as studios is costly and less efficient.

Regeneration and community:
We particularly endorse the ambition in this Cultural Strategy to support the development of managed creative workspace to both regenerate towns and to help develop a sense of community in new housing developments.

New artists’ studio developments have emerged from successful partnerships between housing associations or housing renewal programmes and studio organisations in, for example, London and Sheffield.

Resident artists have become involved in projects which engage with local communities helping to build relationships and establish a sense of place.

NFASP is keen to offer its support in helping to foster these kinds of initiatives.