More than 100 artists have found affordable studio space and are helping to regenerate London’s east end, thanks to a unique collaboration with the registered social landlord Poplar HARCA.
The scheme runs in Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest wards in the country, where HARCA had a growing number of redundant flats that had become a target for antisocial behaviour, criminal activity and squatting.
Bow Arts Trust proposed that some of these flats should be turned over to artists to use as live/work spaces. This would bring them back into use, reducing the significant expense of keeping them empty, and provide artists with much-needed space to work and live.
At the same time, the community would benefit because the artists would be embedded in the heart of it, contributing towards the regeneration of the local area.
HARCA agreed to run the scheme across their entire district. Through it, Bow Arts acts as the landlord and undertakes gas and electrical certification of all flats. It also does the first fix of windows and doors and makes good the basic plumbing. The rest is paid by the successful artist. There is no cost to HARCA residents.
The scheme aims to help artists thrive economically as well as artistically. Rents are based on affordable social housing rates with one third of the amount raised going into a Community Arts Chest that delivers a programme of high quality, sustainable community art projects for local people. Artists on the scheme are able to access work and opportunities through the arts chest.
Artists are selected according to a range of criteria, including their commitment to community engagement, current earning levels and artistic practice. They are very visible and play an active role on resident panels. Many are involved in, or are the instigators of, community events.
The scheme is having a significant effect on the community. For example, one artist ran a series of drop in sessions for young Bengali women who were finding it hard to integrate. The women learned fabric printing techniques and then produced bedspreads, cushions and other textiles which they were able to put on sale locally.
More information from Bow Arts.
Picture by Nic Walker. Used under Creative Commons Licence