Acme Studios — #45 The Formation of the Federation of Artist Studio Providers

Supporting Artists since 1972

#45 The Formation of the Federation of Artist Studio Providers

50 stories from The Acme Archive

From the previous story, on the series of conferences in 2003/2004 in which the importance of working collaboratively with other studio providers to share knowledge, improve practice and strengthen the sector, the plan to record and analyse what provision exists was formed. From June to September 2004, Acme’s staff travelled the length and breadth of England, often by bicycle, to visit the groups and organisations who had created these studios to undertake a survey. This provided the first detailed and comprehensive review of artists' studios in England. In May 2005 Acme published the first ever database of artists’ studio organisations alongside the national survey: A Register of Artists’ Studio Groups and Organisations in England, this database was to be developed and maintained by the national federation. This Register of artists’ studio groups and organisations in England is available on the National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers website.

In May 2005 the first National Studios Forum took place at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in London. Supported by Arts Council England, it was convened to enable representatives from across England to meet to discuss what kind of organisation they would like to establish to represent their collective interests. At the end of the forum 14 delegates put themselves, or their organisation, forward as inaugural steering group members (including Acme) with Naomi Dines, of Occupation Studios in London, nominated as Chair. Support for the formation of a national body to represent the needs and concerns of the artists’ studios sector has been voiced over many years and confirmed by our 2004 survey of nearly 120 studio groups and organisations.

With the financial support of Arts Council England, the steering group, which represented the full geographical spread of the sector, worked in consultation with potential members to develop a representative body. The steering group formed a new charitable organisation: the National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers (NFASP). Membership of the federation were open to all those engaged in providing affordable studio space for artists working in England, as well as other facilities and activities that benefit artists and the wider public. Its role was to help secure, sustain, improve and increase affordable studio provision, addressing many of the needs and concerns common to such organisations.

The NFASP also acted as advocate, broker and champion, influencing public policy, decision-making and opinion to support the valuable work of the studios sector, and the artists that it supports, in their contribution to the social fabric, cultural and creative life of the nation. Working in co-operation with existing organisations across England, the national federation hoped to become the principal source of information, advice and support on all aspects of artists’ studio provision for members, their partner organisations and other interested parties, extending mutual benefit from common resources. Acme’s role was to coordinate the work of the steering group. The Arts Council funded federation announced the appointment of its first Director Val Millington, previously an independent consultant and researcher with extensive experience in the arts and cultural sectors. Val worked from a desk in Acme’s Copperfield Road office. The formation of the federation was a culmination of the efforts of Acme and others to create a body representing a distinctive and vital sector which has been in existence for at least 50 years.

On Tuesday 20th June 2006, in Peckham Southeast London, Labour MP David Lammy, Minister for Culture at the time, officially opened the newly built multi-use work/live studio The Galleria. During his speech he welcomed the launch of the federation by saying: “The move to create a National Federation reflects a climate in which artists are working with a far greater degree of self-determination.”

In 2008 the federation commissioned research into the impact of London 2012 on artists’ studios within the five Olympic boroughs. The East End of London is known to have the highest concentration of artists and creative practitioners in the UK and possibly in Europe. However, the research indicated that artists’ studios were under threat owing to the effect of widespread regeneration and in particular the preparations for the Olympics. The federation worked with studio organisations such as SPACE and others in the visual arts sector to ensure that artists’ studios would be built into the legacy of the Cultural Olympiad, and that artists are not permanently displaced because of the Olympics. For example, the site of Acme’s Carpenters Road studio that closed in 2001 was demolished and is now where the Queen Elizbeth Olympic Park stands.

The federation operated with revenue support from Arts Council England until 2012 when its core funding ceased, and the professional staff team was gradually wound down and the federation was run on a voluntary basis until 2018. The website holds archive materials, links and the register.