The NFASP was set up in 2007 in response to long standing needs identified by affordable artists’ studio providers, and the common desire for a national body to represent their sector. Experience over the preceding 40 years of organised studio provision, as well as specific targeted research, had shown that affordable space to practice was a vital and fundamental support to artists, their production of art work, and its ultimate contribution to culture. The sector lacked wider recognition and understanding, and was increasingly under threat as a result of different economic and political pressures throughout the UK.
Various conferences had brought studio providers together over the preceding years to discuss common issues, and in a specific survey conducted by Acme Studios in 2004 amongst 116 affordable artists' studio organisations, the need for a representative body was confirmed. In 2005, supported by Arts Council England (ACE), a national studios forum was convened, helping to build consensus and co-operation across the sector, and investigate constructive ways forward. Out of this initiative, representatives of studio organisations from across England worked together to develop the National Federation of Artists' Studio Providers (NFASP) with the ongoing support of ACE and the larger, more established studio organisations. This was later extended to include the rest of the UK.
Initially developed by its trustees with start-up funding from ACE, NFASP became incorporated as a charitable company limited by guarantee in June 2006, and became fully operational by April 2007 with the appointment of its first Director. It went on to develop its core membership, bringing the sector together in meetings and conferences across the UK, and to provide a range of advice and support services, as well as representing the sector in relation to policy and its implementation at national and local level.
ACE granted NFASP three-year revenue funding from 2008, extended to March 2012, and the organisation also received additional ACE ‘Grants for the Arts’ funds in 2010 for a specific advocacy programme in relation to a range of threats and opportunities, including those arising out of burgeoning regeneration initiatives across the country: 'Artists' studios: investing in creative communities', continued until the end of 2012 and produced a range of research, guidance, publications and advocacy meetings and material.
Key achievements to 2012 included:
- Developing a growing and wide-ranging UK membership, from embryonic artists’ groups to mature organisations with multiple buildings.
- Delivering a bespoke advice service to more than 250 individuals and organisations, including 100 different studio groups representing at least 2,000 artists.
- Publication of a wide range of resources; including guidance on aspects of setting up, managing and developing studios; a range of case studies, toolkits and guides for studio providers, local authorities, funders and other interested parties; and specific guidance and advocacy documents for planning, development and regeneration professionals.
- Two successful NFASP national conferences for over 300 individuals – including studio groups, as well as policy-makers, funders and other stakeholders, plus a range of other, more regular regional events for studio groups.
- Securing a policy commitment to affordable artists’ workspace in local authority strategies, including the London Mayor’s Cultural Strategy.
- Setting up pilot regional networks of studio groups and facilitating meetings, advice and support between local groups.
The initial funding from ACE came to an end by April 2012, along with that of many advisory services and representative bodies, as part of government funding cuts to the arts. NFASP responded by developing its regional networks and launching a new website better able to serve them, and deliver its resources. The next phase of NFASP’s operations saw a strengthening of collaborations and partnerships between members, who provided enhanced peer-to-peer support online as well as more locally, and the establishment of regional networks, supported by regional studio champions. NFASP also continued to provide a national advisory service, and to advocate on behalf of the sector at local and national level, via its trustees and core member organisations from across the UK.