Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bohemian Rhapsody; HOMES AND PROPERTY;Bohemian Rhapsody A New Studio-Space Initiative Is Consigning Traditional Images of Dingy Artists' Garrets to the Past

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bohemian Rhapsody; HOMES AND PROPERTY;Bohemian Rhapsody A New Studio-Space Initiative Is Consigning Traditional Images of Dingy Artists' Garrets to the Past

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SPITTLES

A new studio-space initiative is consigning traditional images of dingy artists' garrets to the past

TRADITIONALLY, struggling artists have relied on finding cheap places to live and work.

Long before trendy developers discovered places such as Spitalfields and Shoreditch, housing associations and charities were providing low-rent studio space for artists - a key factor in the emergence of London as the world capital for contemporary visual arts.

However, because of the inner-city property boom, artists have been at risk of being priced out of the market. Even though planners try to keep the workspace ethic alive by insisting on a certain number of live/work units at residential developments, they often get snapped up by media types.

Acme, the UK's biggest studio-space charity, says that once live-work units have been bought, continuation of usage isn't guaranteed. David Panton, of Acme, comments: "Usually there is no planning protection for the work element and over time properties revert back to purely residential use."

Currently, Acme provides about 500 studios in 12 old industrial buildings in east and south-east London. Rent levels are between [pound]4.60 and [pound]5.50 per sq ft per annum.

Work/live studios for resident artists typically cost [pound]70 a week, including heating and lighting. Because of its charitable status, Acme gets mandatory rate relief on its buildings, which helps to subsidise rents.

In a move to address the problems faced by artists, the organisation has shifted direction by purchasing buildings it once leased and developing its own studios for rent and purchase.

Its first acquisition was a former LCC fire station in Poplar, E14, which was converted into 12 work/live units and six non-residential studios, offering simple, open-plan spaces of about 550 sq ft with a small kitchen and bathroom, white walls and pine floorboards.

The intention is to give artists more time to concentrate on their professional careers rather than simply working to survive.

There is no obligation on artists to make their work public.

"It is the artists' need for studio space that drives the whole design and philosophy of our work/live schemes," explains Panton.

The living elements are necessary but ancillary.

"It means artists are able to operate in a self-contained way, but the collective dynamic of 12 artists working and living in close proximity provides many opportunities for collaboration and support. …

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