NFASP Event: Affordable Artists' Workspace: Southampton

Date: 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 10:00

Another successful NFASP workshop event - this time for southern-based artists' studio organisations - highlighted the benefits of and need for more similar-styled, regional events for studio groups. Around 20 artists and administrators, representing a wide range of artists' studio organisations from across the southern region, attended the NFASP event and there was praise for the excellent networking opportunities.
There was also praise for the excellent networking opportunities at the event at the University of Southampton's John Hansard Gallery on 8 June.
Around 20 artists and administrators, representing a wide range of artists' studio organisations from across the southern region, attended, including:
Artsway from the New Forest
a space from Southampton
Portsmouth’s Art Space celebrating their 30th  year running studios,
• Andover-based Test Valley Arts Foundation, which championed the opening of Chapel Art Studios (right).
Unity Arts Trust from Chichester, who have just opened their first studios.
• Recently formed Portland Arts Trust.

The informal event began with some general introductions and asked participants to highlight any key issues or questions facing their groups. Among these issues were the problems for rural-based studio organisations in areas where property prices are very high. This creates a challenge for the affordable studio provider, who finds it difficult to attract artists to the studios as they usually can’t afford to live sufficiently near to the workspace. The sustainability of studios also featured as a topic for consideration.
The group then divided into three smaller, breakout sessions:

• Financing studios and ection 106 Agreements
This group looked at the affordable housing element of Section 106 (Town and Country Planning Act, 1990) agreements and how to fund and develop projects. NFASP Trustee and ACME’s Chief Executive Jonathan Harvey illustrated the benefits and leverage that can be achieved with applying Section 106 with new build studios. A number of successful models working in partnership with housing associations have resulted in new artists’ studios being built in several locations around London, offering secure, affordable and high quality specification studio units.

Jonathan highlighted the need to flag up the benefits of having artists in Section 106 projects, as well as achieving full occupation and activity. The networks developed with the local community need to be shown as positive contributions. He also noted the importance of targeting the right person in the town hall – the planners - and using the right language.

• Developing studios and fundraising
Setting up studios and attracting funding was hosted by ACAVA’s artistic director and NFASP's acting Chair of Trustees Duncan Smith, who first asked why people set up studios. A myriad of responses were generated among which passion was the most popular!  A genuine desire to provide, not just studio space, but to integrate with the local community was also identified.

Duncan urged groups to expand their enterprises as the more artists’ studios they could manage, then more funds could be generated – to think large-scale from the start!

Among ideas for attracting funding was to develop a membership or friends scheme that offers benefits not only to those artists in studios, but also for those who could benefit from the network and enjoy a sense of belonging to a group - as developed by Art Space Portsmouth and Magdalen Road Studios in Oxford.

The sense of establishing a community that has the ability to lead to professional development cannot be underestimated when setting up studios. The need to build alliances and work with others for common purposes was also highlighted in discussions on developing studios.

Demonstrating public benefit and financial need
In the public benefit session, the need to collect evidence of artists’ activities and work in other areas outside of the studio was paramount to raise the organisation's profile and generate positive advocacy messages.

After the smaller sessions, there was time for further questions that had not been addressed so far:

• The thorny issue of VAT, with some sensible advice suggesting the need to balance what you claim back and what you charge.
• The problem of what to do with difficult tenants was also discussed with suggestions of asking those artists not using studios to encourage them to sublet for a predetermined time frame to ensure others on the waiting list get to benefit.
• When looking at drawing up a review process, there was the need to be aware of the different stages that artists are at from early career to more experienced and established, to ensure use of the space and artists' own development. 

Lunch that followed offered a chance to network and ask more specific questions of NFASP staff and trustees before participants could enjoy a tour of the current exhibition at the John Hansard gallery of  Dawnbreakers, a show curated by Juan Bolivar looking at the after-effects of the millennium ten years on.

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