Nearly 30 people got together at the YMCA in Swansea for the inaugural South Wales Studios Networking meeting on March 30.
The event was a collaboration between NFASP, Welsh Artists Resource Programme (Warp), the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Elysium Artspace, with attendees coming from Newport, Cardiff and Swansea to meet each other, share experience and establish a future network, which will extend to other members as it develops.
Prior to the meeting there was a screening of artists’ films, commissioned to mark the closure of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery for major redevelopment, followed by lunch.
NFASP’s Helen Pike set the tone for the day, explaining that it was up to members to make the network into something that suited them – there were no prescribed formats for the regional networks that are just beginning to be set up across the UK.
Everyone introduced themselves – some attendees were representing several organisations at once – and said what they hoped to get out of the network. Attendees ranged from representatives of studio groups that have been running for several years, eg Fireworks, tactileBOSCH and Elysium, to newer groups and some students from University of Wales, Newport, who have yet to set up studios but wanted advice and to be part of the network as it develops. There were also representatives from U.R.B.A.N. in Newport, who have been working with Newport Council to reanimate empty shops in the city centre.
Each attendee talked about the various challenges they have been facing – from business rates increases, short tenancies, expectations of local authorities or other partners and the problems of working in isolation. Funding was a big topic, with Dan Stavely from Elysium saying that it’s best not to mention the arts when applying for [non-arts] funding.
With more buildings lying empty the idea of squatting was discussed and it was agreed that it would be useful to know what the law around this is now.
Many attendees had public-facing programmes and for some this was a fundamental part of their tenancy agreement. Owen Griffiths from Supersaurus, which is supported by the social housing company Coastal Housing, said that they often have to explain that they can offer community engagement projects, rather than public art ones.
Helen Pike explained that the new NFASP web site would host forums for the networks so that they could exchange information online. The idea of creating a nationwide forum, so that members from Dundee to Dungeoness could share information on common topics was also discussed.
Kim Fielding of tactileBOSCH studios in Cardiff offered to host the next forum on Friday 13 July, around the time of the next exhibition Citizen. (More information on this soon).
After the more formal meeting the event relocated to Elysium’s new studios in a former office block and attendees had the chance to look around the fabulous new spaces, have a drink and speak to each other. It was great to see lots of people meeting for the first time and discovering common ground.
Since the meeting many other groups have expressed an interest in joining the network and some attendees have now joined NFASP.
Groups represented at the first meeting included:
Fireworks Studios, Fox Studio, Catherine St Studios, U.R.B.A.N., Kings Rd Studios, Supersaurus, Elysium, Swansea Studios, tatcileBOSCH, Tant, g39, Warp, Chapter, Warwick Hall Studios.
With thanks to Glynn Vivian Art Gallery for support with the venue and catering; to Warp for transport organisation and artist-wrangling; to Elysium for post event entertainment and hospitality and to all those who attended the first meeting.