Acme Studios — #44 Conferences: Creating Places & Making Space, 2003

Supporting Artists since 1972

#44 Conferences: Creating Places & Making Space, 2003

50 stories from The Acme Archive

Before the 2000’s Acme’s founders and co-directors David Panton and Jonathan Harvey had always been involved in discussions, conferences and debates concerning artists’ survival, but it was in the early 2000s that Acme’s consciousness-raising about the importance of affordable studio provision started to gain traction publicly and politically, and the needs of artists nationwide for studios, and the contribution of artists to the “creative industry” became a major topic for public policy making in government and local authorities.

On the 19th of June 2002, David Panton led a debate alongside Space Studios at Whitechapel Gallery’s “Local Affairs” series of public seminars profiling innovative practices by local arts organisations. Some of the discussion points and questions raised here were taken up on a much larger scale in a series of regional and national conferences. In June 2003 “Gateway to the Future”: a symposium about the future of cultural and creative industries in London Thames Gateway, took place, bringing together businesses, practitioners, and academics to explore strategic initiatives involving communities and urban regeneration, and to help form policy for the future of such industries.

Following on, Acme took a leading role organising and presenting three major national studio conferences: Creating Places at Tate Modern on 8th of July – a one day national conference, funded by Arts Council Engand (ACE) and Cultural Industries Development Agency (CIDA), and the European Union (EU) - addressing the sustainability of artists studio provision. The second, Opening Doors 15th July was held at Yorkshire ArtSpace in Sheffield for organisers of open studio events, and the third, Making Space on 22nd of July in the same venue, for artists studio providers and associated groups.

At this time the growth and development of the “Creative industries” became a key target for government policy. Thus, the principal keynote speakers at the first conference were Estelle Morris, the Minister of State for the Arts in the UK and Peter Hewitt, chief executive of the Arts Council England, with developers, artists and charities, meeting to discuss how artist's studio provision can effect regeneration and grow cultural industry. The message coming through these conferences was “if you don’t make space for the creative industries, your regeneration won’t succeed”.

Acme argued for a new model of a relationship with developers, a private/public partnership that provided a vitally important model benefiting all stakeholders: by meeting the regeneration polices of the local authority it provided a developmental opportunity for the commercial sector to create much needed purpose-built low-cost permanent accessible high-quality spaces for artists. David Panton argued that hitherto “artists have acted as signposts to developers and the escalating property market forces artists to move out. But the acquisition of property assisted through Lottery finance has created an equity springboard to launch long-term further capital acquisition. Artists now will no longer need to be at the mercy of the property market but can benefit from it”.

Opening Doors put on workshops, presentations and networking opportunities, exploring funding sources, organisation structures, and health and safety. Making Space, discussed how to secure spaces and resources, how to work with partners and find the right fit between studio providers and other organisations. Themes of sharing, revealing the extent and strength of the sector network, and the dynamics between vision and practicalities were presented. During the conference the chair David Panton reminded attendees they were part of hundreds of studio organisations, and it was a vital time to start working together for collective action to build a network. This was the beginning of what would be established as the National Federation of Artist Studio Providers (NFASP) in May 2005.

In between the two Sheffield conferences was Creative Links expo:03 - “Finding Affordable Studio/Workspace” on 17th July 2003 at Atlantis Gallery, Brick Lane, London, hosted by CIDA, supporting cultural industries in East London. Then on 24th July 2003 across to Dublin for the Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, for a seminar by Dublin studio organisations and the Irish Arts Council on sharing strategies, approaches, knowledge and skills, learning from the history of Acme.

At the end of the year, on 26th November 2003, the London property agents Hurford Salvi Carr hosted a presentation from Acme at the Great Eastern Hotel on Aldgate to commercial developers, “Cultural use of Commercial Space” asking what does regeneration mean to them? And to explore how commercial partners could see the benefit of incorporating artists’ studios in mixed-use developments.

More locally, Acme was involved in Hackney’s – “Creative Futures” in June 2004 which explored how culture contributes to the regeneration agenda, making the economic case for culture, using the arts to engage and embrace disparate communities through the development of new strategic partnerships at local, national and international level.

Acme was invited to be involved in an event at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead on 24th June 2004. The event was part of a-n The Artists Information Company, for their artists events programme in partnership with Workplace, an artist-led organisation in Gateshead with support from Baltic.

For some while Acme had been involved in “Creative Clusters” a network of organisations working to further the development of creative industries, as well as a series of international conferences. In Belfast Northen Ireland during October 2005 another conference took place, with Acme able to highlight the desirability of investment in creativity, the delivery of skills for creativity, and inclusion through creativity.

These consciousness-raising activities enabled Acme to position itself publicly, and to develop a new model to enter into partnerships with commercial developers to create first of their kind: mixed-use developments incorporating a community of secure, affordable studios for artists. One such partnership with Barratt Homes led to development of The Galleria building in Southwark which opened in 2006, a ground-breaking, first of its kind scheme that combined 50 new affordable studios, and 120 residential apartments.