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Inspiring spaces - Wimbledon Art Studios

19 April 2012

Being the largest art studios complex in Europe, Wimbledon Art Studios is a creative hub, alive with artistic activity. London Calling's Tom Butler tells us more about this fantastic space and how you can visit...

When you see fantastic exhibitions of established artists at the Tate and the National Gallery, it’s very easy to gasp in awe at the masterpieces in front of your eyes. And yet very few people take the time to think about how the artist started their career and where they actually produced their magnum opus. 

If you’re wondering, then there’s a good chance it was at Wimbledon Art Studios. Hands up now, who knew that Wimbledon was home to the largest single site art studio complex in Europe? Didn’t think so.
 
Next year the organisation celebrates it’s 20th anniversary, and from humble beginnings with just 6 studios in a working paper warehouse, it can now boast 220 individual artist studios and 230 resident artists working across a huge range of creative mediums, from painting, ceramics and sculpture to photography and furniture design.
 
The Studios sustained growth throughout such austere times and their vital role in helping to regenerate what was previously a neglected part of the capital is something that Emma Campbell, the Artist Coordinator at Wimbledon Art Studios, is justifiably proud of.
 
“Although we are in a financial recession and experiencing huge funding cuts in the arts sector it doesn’t stop people being creative or from people appreciating art! In some cases because of job losses, people have re-evaluated their life and chosen to take the opportunity to pursue their dreams.  Subsequently we have had an even greater demand for studio space than ever before and the expansion of our site is a natural progression of accommodating that demand.“
 
As part of their programme every year the organisation runs two Open Studio Arts Shows, and the next one is soon approaching, running from the 10th to the 13th May. Last year over 10,000 visitors attended the Open Studio events and over £150,000 of sales were made. As such, you can see why artists are so keen to be involved in what, according to Campbell, gives them their first taste of an exhibition.
 
“I would actually say that the Open Studios Art Shows already provides a similar experience to an exhibition programme perhaps with the exception of the length of time that the work is on display for. The great thing about Open Studios is that visitors get to actually meet and chat with the artists and can ask them questions about their reasons and motivation for the work they produce. There is a level of engagement and experience of the work that you do not have when you either visit a gallery or go to an exhibition.”
 
With such continued success and a thriving, ever expanding art community within it, it would be easy for the Studios to rest on their laurels and bask in their achievements, so it is fantastic to see that their journey is far from over.
 
“Our desire is to help every artist & maker, at our studio achieve their goals, whether that is being a full time professional artist or providing a creative outlet outside of a day job. Our aim is to keep providing this support and growing with the creative community. With size, comes greater impact for our artists. The media, galleries and the public become more aware of us and that means more exposure and success for our artists.”
 
So with Europe’s leading Arts Studio protagonists on our doorstep, there’s very little reason why the local community and the city as a whole shouldn’t continue to support a great success story on South West London. Oh and if you were in any doubt as to whether to visit the Art Shows next month, you get to meet and chat with the artists at the same time as viewing the work. And if that still hasn’t sold it for you, it’s free! What are you waiting for…
 

Wimbledon Art Studios and their Summer Open Studios Art Show runs from Thursday 10th –  Sunday 13th May 2012.
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