CRATE successfully accessed economic development and regeneration funds to buy a building.
Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and local authorities are increasingly positioning cultural tourism and the creative industries at the centre of their strategies for economic development and regeneration. This can present opportunities for artists who wish to develop studios to gain access to significant amounts of public funding. CRATE shows that it is possible even for a group with a very limited track record to unlock such funding by presenting plans which tie in with the bigger strategic vision for an area.
This profile forms part of a portfolio of material around studios including the studios toolkit ' designed especially for artists thinking of setting up some kind of workspace facility ' case studies of studio organisations at different stages of development and more.
CRATE emerged in response to the needs identified by a group of artists living and working in East Kent and Thanet an area which currently lacks any affordable artist-led group studios. CRATE has secured £100,000 from Arts Council England South East and £115,000 from the regional economic development agency, the East Kent Partnership (EKP) to buy and refurbish a building, 6 Bilton Square.
Located on the high street at the heart of the Margate regeneration zone, 6 Bilton Square is well suited for conversion into a studios and project space. It is a structurally strong former light-industrial property with good light and good access, offering 2,700 sq ft of appropriate, modifiable space. The conversion will provide:
CRATE was formed in 2002 by students at the Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD) who were bound together by a need for studios and for a community of critical practice. We were all on the part-time fine art degree at KIAD, says Chris Yates, each of us was making work that was conceptual in nature and wasnt clearly sellable. It was work that needed to have a context in order for it to come together. As the group evolved, priorities began to change. Some left the group, others joined; some became more interested in plans for a project space, others in the potential of CRATE as a networking and professional development hub. In its early planning phase, CRATE was one of the first artists groups to have access to the a-n studios toolkit, It is a really good resource for signposting you through the process, says Josie Mahoney, a CRATE member who tested the toolkit for the group.
In order to have a chance of attracting funding for the building CRATE recognised that it would need to constitute itself as a formal organisation. It became a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. It has a board of six trustees: all are artists or arts professionals; some will become studio holders. Beyond the board, says Chris Yates, there are the beginnings of a wider network, which includes original group members and some additional interested artists. When plans for the building are further advanced, we will need to think about formalising our membership and about what the relationship between the board and the members will be.
The Bilton Square building will enable CRATE to offer a range of services to local artists: secure, permanent, low-cost studio spaces; access to the flexible project space, which can be used as laboratory space or to house project outcomes, enabling both the documentation and production of work; a creative hub to foster and support local and regional artists. CRATE anticipates a mixture of short and long-term studio users. At points of turnover, it will target emerging artists or artists at key stages in their professional development.
The provision of project space reflects current needs of contemporary artists in the South East, such as: a facility for short-term project development; somewhere to document work for applications, commissions and publication; a light-controllable space for projection and installation. It will be a regional resource as well as a local asset.
CRATE will support artists who are looking to embark on a professional career following graduation the yearly stream of around 100 graduates from KIAD, for example, who are increasingly encouraged to stay in the area by the emergence of new spaces and projects artist-focused events such as Margate Rocks and the Whitstable Biennale, no less than the much vaunted flagship project the Turner Contemporary. CRATE hopes to work with organisations like Turner Contemporary and KIAD perhaps by providing short-term studio space for commissioned artists or a residency for a graduating artist.
The new studios and project space will add a valuable extra piece to the evolving jigsaw of provision and incentive for artists in the area. It will look to create opportunities for skill sharing, peer support and critical discourse and to provide other professional development support, which may include mentoring, workshops and seminars. The project in Margate echoes similar plans to support artists in Folkestone, contributing to the formation of an East Kent network.
Its proximity to London, the rapidly expanding Thames Gateway, and mainland Europe makes the Thanet and East Kent area an increasingly viable and attractive location for artists. The eastwards movement of artists within London has now begun to extend beyond its boundaries to impact on the coastal towns of East Kent.
CRATE will position itself within local, regional, national and international artists networks through the programming of the project space and the development of a creative network. The recently formed 50° Nord network in Nord Pas de Calais is actively looking for partners in Kent. CRATE has already formed positive links with La Plate-forme in Dunkerque, an artist-led studio complex and support system with a project space, and Art Connexion in Lille, which is both a space and a support structure for the production and presentation of contemporary art. It hopes to develop proposals with these potential partners to facilitate residencies, exchanges and co-projects.
CRATE still needs to work out how it will generate the revenue to realise its ambitions. The rent from the eight studios which CRATE hopes to keep to an affordable level of about £5 per square foot will not cover the costs of maintaining a programme in the project space. The solution will probably lie in a mixture of project funding and in finding appropriate partners to hire the project space for an extended period each year.
As owners of the freehold of the studio and project space, CRATE hope to achieve real sustainability, secure from the rising property market which has made it difficult to sustain long term creative communities elsewhere. Though the need for artists infrastructure is significantly greater in East Kent than can be met by this project alone, CRATE hopes to act as a pathfinder and impetus for other, similar initiatives.
The CRATE proposal
LOCAL FIT: HOW CRATE DESCRIBED THE STRATEGIC VALUE OF ITS PROJECT IN A FUNDING BID TO ITS LOCAL REGENERATION AGENCY, THE EAST KENT PARTNERSHIP
Briefly describe how the proposal adds value to East Kent Partnerships strategies:
The project has been developed in the context of the specific plans for the renaissance and regeneration of Margate Old Town and will directly contribute to the delivery of EKPs key priority to develop a positive cultural identity. Alongside the development of Turner Contemporary and the Old Town as a Cultural Quarter in Margate, the studio block and project space will provide concrete support for practising artists and will vitally underpin Thanet District Councils plans. It also meets ACE South Easts strategic objectives.
Information on the governance, aims and objectives and equal opportunities policy of Crate Studio and Project Space Ltd:
Crate Studio and Project Space Ltd (Crate) is a not-for-profit organisation established as a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Registered Charity.
Crate has adopted the Charity Commissions model governing document and is managed by a Board of Directors. There are currently six Directors:
Rachel Daniels, Fine Art Administrator
Moyra Derby, Artist and Senior Fine Art Lecturer at KIAD
Sue Jones, Curator, ex-Chisenhale and Meteropole, now freelance, based in Thanet
Jean Green, Artist
Josie Mahoney, Artist
Chris Yates, Artist and freelance consultant in regeneration and voluntary sector development
2. CRATE STUDIO & PROJECT SPACE: Governing Document & Charity Objects:
1. To relieve financial hardship among people living or working in East Kent by providing such persons with affordable studio and project space which they could not otherwise afford through lack of means.
2. To advance the education and appreciation of contemporary art by providing seminars, workshops and exhibitions, and by providing opportunities for critical debate and professional development.
The Charitys objects are for the benefit of the public, in particular members of the art community in Thanet and East Kent.
3. CRATE STUDIO & PROJECT SPACE AIMS & OBJECTIVES:
CRATE STUDIO & PROJECT SPACE is committed to supporting the development of fine art practice by providing artists with low-cost studio space and access to project space that can respond to the diverse needs of contemporary practice. It aims to form a creative hub that can foster and support artists working in Thanet and East Kent.
CRATE will position itself within a network of local, regional, national and international initiatives for artists. Through the programming of the project space and the development of a creative network.
CRATE will ensure that its activities impact beyond the immediate studio members, supporting the wider art community and providing the public with opportunities to engage with fine art practice.
PERMANENT STUDIOS to establish and maintain secure, permanent, accessible and affordable workspaces for artists engaged in a range of practices.
ARTISTS HUB to act as a resource centre and contact point for artists, providing information and a data base.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT facilitating skill sharing, peer support and critical discourse; providing a range of opportunities for professional development, to include mentoring, workshops, seminars and training.
FLEXIBLE PROJECT SPACE to provide access to project space that can be used as laboratory space, or that can house project outcomes, enabling both the documentation and production of work.
SUPPORT FOR PRACTICE to provide an environment that supports and extends fine art practice, offering space for both sustained studio development and distinct projects.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NETWORK to work jointly with partner initiatives in order to facilitate a network of residencies, exchanges and co-projects both nationally and internationally.
4. EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY: Statement of Intent
CRATE STUDIO & PROJECT SPACE is committed to equal opportunities regardless of gender, physical ability, age, learning difficulties, race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation for all individuals connected to or served by CRATE.
CRATE will actively work to develop and maintain an organisation in which differing ideas, abilities, backgrounds and needs are fostered and valued, and where those with diverse backgrounds and experiences are able to participate and contribute.
CRATE resolves to regularly evaluate and monitor its effectiveness in meeting our equal opportunity policy objectives and responsibilities.
Charity Commission for England and Wales
Inland Revenue Charities Office
15 Drumsheugh Gardens
Edinburgh EH3 7UL
0131 777 4147
Department of Health and Social Services
Voluntary Activity Unit
Annex 3, Castle Building
Belfast BT4 3RA
028 90522 780
Kent Institute of Art and Design
Margate Rocks (Thanet Contemporary Arts Festival)
Individual and groups of artists wishing to participate in the festivals open studios strand should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Glinkowski is a freelance arts writer.
Paul Glinkowski is a freelance journalist, writer and arts consultant. From 1997 to 2003 he was a visual arts officer at Arts Council England (ACE), where he led on the development of a national programme of support for visual artists studios. He played a key role in the development of a series of three studios conferences in July 2003: Creating Places at Tate Modern, and Making Space and Opening Doors at Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield (see http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/information/publication_detail.php?sid=12&id=393&page=2 for conference report Supporting artists workspace). He also wrote the 2003 ACE publication Open Studios (see http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/documents/publications/282.pdf)
First published: a-n.co.uk March 2005
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