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Making Connections

This week has all been about connections - well in reality, the past year has been about making connections, in whatever form that comes in, from studio spaces to networks for freelancers, as we scrambled around trying to make sense of the ever changing situation.

The pandemic allowed us to think about the things that we really need at the moment and the subject of networking and make connections across the cultural sector was definitely one of the loudest voices.

Independent Biennial recently featured Hazlehurst Studios in a discussion about studio spaces, which we blogged about here 'Hazlehurst Studios talks Spaces' so hop over and have a read/listen when you get a chance.

That series is part of a larger body of work that 'Art in Liverpool' have partnered in working on, which has led to the formation of the Artist Studio Network: ASN Merseyside

Press Release to accompany the document:

Liverpool’s artist studios at risk of disappearing without support

Liverpool’s artist studios, home to almost 500 artists, could disappear from the city-region’s communities if they are not given the support they need. A report, compiled by Art in Liverpool C.I.C and a new network burning together representatives of Liverpool city-region’s 35 artist studios, reveals many artist studios were ineligible for funding support in 2020, and when they were, the language or presentation of the opportunity appeared to exclude them.

The city-region’s artist studios play a valuable role in its vibrant arts community, creative economy and culture. Affordable studio space allows artists to thrive, building work, connecting with other creatives and helping them to access opportunities, like exhibitions, residencies and more.

The challenges facing Artist Studios, like many in the creative industry, have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, but were not created by it. Like music venues and studios, artist studios are part of a wider ecosystem of increasing property prices. According to Arts Council England’s ‘Livelihood of Visual Artist’ report in 2019, artists earn on average £16,150 each year, with £6,020 coming from their artist practice. Rents in studio spaces, therefore, cannot be on a parallel with those in the tech industry, gaming or creative studios.

Artist Studios thus receive a lower income than other studio networks. This puts them at a disadvantage with landlords and property developers, especially in city centre or desirable locations.

Affordable studio space plays an important role in an artists development. Rents are, on average, according to the National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers around a third of the open market. If we value the work of visual artists and want them to contribute to our creative economy, then they need access to facilities at an affordable price. This means studios that are centrally located, or easy to get to, are secure and safe, especially if artists are working late at night, are accessible and well managed.

Artist studios are not merely beneficial to artists. They contribute to communities through exhibitions, open studio events, outreach programmes and public art projects that enhance the wellbeing and quality of life in an area.

The report calls for Artist Studios to be included in the cultural infrastructure of Liverpool City Region, for wider recognition of their roles, activity and expertise, and for greater protection to be granted to them to ensure they continue. As cultural regeneration is a major part of the strategy for recovery post Covid, Artist Studios provide an existing connection into communities and high streets, and should be the first port of call for local authorities looking to rebuild and utilise grassroots artistic and creative communities.

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As we strive to have a voice within the Liverpool City Region network, and improve the cultural offer that we have in Halton, we must also work together, so that local creatives, without a home within a studio space or arts organisation, can find support and networking opportunities. Freelancers within studio spaces struggle with networking and looking for that one stop shop to find opportunities, so where do you start? Below we will share some of the networks we are familiar with, with a caveat that a lot of these networking opportunities are being newly formed, so everything is far from perfect.

Hazlehurst Studios - Well we may as well focus first on ourselves, what are we doing to be more connected? Currently we are working on our own feasibility study, about how we can work better in Halton, with local artists and local organisations. This has been focused on in depth discussions with our own artists, to find out what they need/want to thrive, mapping the current cultural offer in Halton and working with students to see if we can provide a worthwhile work experience offer. So if you want to know more about what is going on in Halton, then please get in touch, even better if you take the time to fill in our current survey - Hazlehurst Visual Arts Survey. (we will be sharing results of the survey by the end of May).

Curious Minds Freelancing - Have you heard of Curious Minds? If you work with young people of any age (up to 25), working with schools/teachers/ after school provision etc - then it is well worth looking at what they offer. More recently they have been working on the Bubble Up and Kickstart schemes, as well as providing CPD for freelancers. This may be leading to more support and opportunities for freelancers - so keep your eyes peeled. Curious Minds are also the guiding hands behind LCEPS. - If you are not familiar with your local LCEP please do seek it out.

On a more local level - Hazlehurst Studios have been part 'Cultivate Halton' since its inception, which is the LCEP for Halton. So if you are a local creative based in Halton, please get in touch with us, either at Hazlehurst Studios or Cultivate Halton. A lot of local opportunities are filtered through this network. Check out the partners to see who we currently partner with, although we have a strong vision around working with young people, we are also developing other ideas.

March for Arts - We recently participated in an informal zoom discussion with March for Arts, which is focused on creating a Freelance Working Agreement that is fair for all. It was great to hear what challenges over creatives have faced and how they are working together to create something that will benefit us all. This will also lead to the formation of a free directory created for Freelancers to use, but they could really do with more voices and opinion, so it fairly represents everyone - Freelance Working Agreement.

They also compile a regular blog around opportunities - this well worth checking out Opportunities.

Access Arts - Access arts provide resources that inspire artist educators and teachers and they are the latest organisation to provide opportunities for freelancers to network, so we are heading to their networking meeting for artist educators in May, to find out more! (this is for paid members). We think online CPD is here to stay, so we want to look at how to improve on this and they offer so many resources that are well worth exploring,

Please let us know if you know of any networks that are worth a look.


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