This Blog will chart the activities of Sam West as we research and develop sustainable artist-led activity in the UK and beyond.

Sam West has just received a NAN Futurific! Bursary : which will help us to further develop artist activities between Bristol and Helsinki.


We’re delighted to say that artist Garreth Hughes will soon be on his way to Finland!

He’s the first Top Floor artist to take part in the SamWest exchange between Top Floor Studios at Spike and Oksasenkatu 11, Helsinki.

We wish him all the best :D


We have some exciting news!

Oksasenkatu, the artists group that Sam West met in Helsinki are offering a studio holder from Top Floor a free residency space between the dates of 8th – 23rd September.

The residency space is based on the historical fortress island of Suomenlinna in Helsinki, a Unesco World Heritage site.

This is short notice, but it’s because the London based artist who is programmed into that space in September can only use it for one week. Oksasenkatu then very kindly have offered the space to us for the rest of September.

There is an apartment in this space and so the Top Floor Studio holder would only need to pay for their flights and living expenses.

What a fantastic opportunity!

The aims and aspirations of Sam West are not simply dreams after all …


Sam West feeds back

Last month Sam West held an informal gathering at Top Floor Studios, where we shared the findings of our research trip to Helsinki and Tallinn to all Top Floor Studio members.

Accompanied by drinks and plentiful foods (yum!) we discussed the viability of the studio exchange programme, and talked artists through the A_N blog, introducing some of the key people and artist groups who we’d met on our journey.

The evening was a resounding success – with much lively discussion and debate – with ideas and suggestions from all quarters of how we can take this artist-led exchange forward.

We’re hoping that an artist from Top Floor Studios will be able spend time in Finland over the next few months – ensuring this artist-led exchange programme can develop from strength to strength.


Sam West meets Oksasenkatu.

On Wednesday 18th May, our final day in Helsinki, we met with Jakko from the artists group Oksasenkatu to discuss the possibilities for studio exchanges between their group and studio holders at Spike Island.

As we talked, we outlined the needs and values of each artists group and the importance of how beneficial these exchanges could be. There was a shared acknowledgement and agreement that this exchange process should not create a structure like a residency program, with all the administration and workload (both professional and artistic) that planning a residency requires.

That this would be counter-productive, producing quite a large job for people involved. Instead, these exchanges are negotiated by the artists involved who have been matched with each other by Jakko and ourselves. There is no fixed time span or way in which the exchanges should work and the idea is that artists swap both studios and accommodation for a time period that suits them both, with little cost to themselves other than travel and subsistence.

Inturn, both Spike studio holders and the artists in Oksasenkatu will welcome and support the visiting artists during their exchange, introducing them to the new cities and helping them establish their practices in a new city and a new context.

What was so great about the meeting was finding that Oksasenkatu were as interested in the idea of exchange as us and that this model fitted the ways in which both British and Finnish artists practices worked. We have kept in contact with Jakko and Oksasenkatu and are in the process of feeding this interest back to Spike Island Studio holders. Once we can see who is interested from Spike and in what capacity, then we will contact Jakko and begin the process of matching studio holders together.