When I started looking for studio spaces in my final year of university, I already knew it was going to be difficult. As a part time student, I’d witnessed a number of previous graduates go through exactly the same thing. My search was repeatedly thwarted by cost, distance and, (as a wheelchair user), the all-important accessibility. I was even looking at renting garages, industrial units or anywhere I could be creative. Nothing was suitable.
Then I got an email, (forwarded by a tutor), which offered affordable studio spaces. A gentleman, called Phil Barker, had negotiated the use of a disused office space to make up for some of the local shortfall in available studios. As an artist himself, Phil is well aware of the difficulties faced by students, graduates and emerging and established artists.
The building is located in Seaham, with a bit of a sea view and lift access to all floors. At the time, this scheme was solely reliant on artists’ contributions to cover the running costs. This meant it was within my meagre budget. I thought it was perfect so I quickly signed up.
However, the path of true studio happiness was not destined to run smoothly. I was barely there for a week before we had to vacate due to a problem with the business rates. By some weird synchronicity, I used to be a Business Rates Officer and offered to help with some of the admin. For a while, there were lots of meetings, plans and paperwork but everything else was put on hold. The whole space stood empty.
Then came the news that we were waiting for. If the group adheres to certain conditions, we will get much needed rates relief. This will allow us to implement the exhibitions, workshops, classes and educational events which we’d originally planned. The local community will obviously benefit. Also, artists like me get the chance to pass on knowledge and gain first-hand experience. At present, we have renewed confidence and are busy moving in and making art. We even have a new name, (Spectrum), to go with that new start.
So what’s all the fuss about? My studio space has everything a budding artist needs except 4 interior walls. But then again, it is an unconventional, open plan layout which does much to let the natural light in and my imagination run wild. It has certainly been an ‘interesting’ introduction to being an artist. But, if I was any less committed, I’d go get an office job.
You can keep up to date with our progress by following us on twitter: @Lighthousestdio
For any other information, please email: spectrumSR7@gmail.com