#34 Part Two: The Fire Station, Residency & Awards Programmes 1997-
50 stories from The Acme Archive
Acme’s Residency & Awards Programmes were first set up in 1997 with work/live at the Fire Station and expanded to include five strands - studio residencies, graduate studio awards, inauguration awards, work/live residencies, and exchanges and collaborations. Each residency and award programme are partnered with another organisation in order to provide additional support and opportunities to selected artists. We have welcomed international artists residents at the Fire Station courtesy of the Australia Council, Aargauer Kuratorium (Swiss) and Khazanah (Malaysian) as well as with Artists at Risk (with 3 Ukrainian artists) the Finnish Institute and IASPIS (Sweden).
The first programme of artists described enjoying the benefits of security and stability, of living in an Acme live/work unit that provided 24/7 access to their work without the breaks of travel, or the interruption of domestic life. Some artists described the traditional separation between studio and home life arrangements as fracturing the rhythm of working on your practice. Fire Station alumni Robert Holyhead described the work/live space as “a machine for making art”.
For many artists, the set-up of these residencies provides the balance of needing private, undisturbed space, combined with the desire for a like-minded community to work amongst. Lynsay Seers, an artist from the first group of residents described it as:
“The work/live arrangement is absolutely ideal for me, and since living at the Fire Station I have always had a work/live space. I need a private, quiet space to both work and live in. But my ideal is to have a community that’s associated with that work/live space. This is what you often get on a residency when there are other people, other artists or practitioners involved. You can have a sense of autonomy, a private space, but then also a social space too and you can choose between them. So, you’re not completely isolated, but you can be if you want to be. That really suits me and I have that again now.”
The sense of working and living collaboratively and interactively with the space of the building can be seen in action from the very beginning of the Fire Station - during its reopening as a live/work space, it became the venue and stage for “Snakes & Ladders” a live performance by Station House Opera projected and enacted on the back of the building to celebrate the Fire Station’s opening in 1998.
Since the Fire Station opened Acme has expanded the provision of work/live spaces and residencies in buildings: Sugar House in Stratford now closed, Glassyard in Stockwell, and High House at Purfleet both still operational.