Acme Studios — #39 Concepts & Concrete KTP with Central Saint Martins

Supporting Artists since 1972

#39 Concepts & Concrete KTP with Central Saint Martins

50 stories from The Acme Archive

In 2008 Graham Ellard and Anne Tallentire from Double Agents, a research project based in the Art Programme at Central Saint Martins, contacted Acme’s Residency and Projects Manager Julia Lancaster with an idea to collaborate on a research project exploring the role of the studio for graduate artists - the form, function and meaning of the space. This project would become the first of its kind partnership to be awarded funding that specifically focused on artist’s practice. The Acme Studios/CSM Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was supported by Innovate UK and the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Arts Council England. The KPT saw through research projects, surveys, building projects and established a new graduate programme, and was completed in January 2013. A publication detailing the outputs of this working relationship titled: Studios for Artists Concepts and Concrete: A collaboration between Acme Studios and Central Saint Martins, Edited by Graham Ellard, Jonathan Harvey, and Arantxa Echarte – who was the associate researcher on this project, by Black Dog Publishing in 2015.

Rather than a hierarchal handing down of knowledge, this KTP approach was more in line with a mutual exchange - of research-by-practice / practice-by-research unlocking and sharing knowledge. In 2008 an Acme tenant's survey was conducted and the responses were used to inform the KTP. Likewise, discussions with art students and graduates helped this research Partnership between Acme and CSM understand what recent graduates need from a studio. One finding was the average age of an Acme tenant was 45, so the KTP set about finding solutions to why young artists were less likely to become studio tenants. Other than the financial obstacles, the researchers found that the graduates wanted spaces to work, with communal areas, and opportunities for peer-to-peer support and mentorship, in short, a close replica of art collage.

The Associate Studio Programme, the first scheme of its kind in London, launched as a consequence of this need for bridging the gap between art school and professional practice by setting up a shared context for community between artists to develop. Responding to the feedback, this environment encouraged artistic development through the wellbeing of the artists - benefits of multi-use buildings were; feelings of safety, not having to worry about traveling home late and knowing that other people are living in the building while you are working. Also, being part of a collective endeavour, being part of the same programme would help to build a sense of community within the graduates.

A base for The Associate Studio Programme was devised in the newly-built, Glassyard and opened in October 2013, in Stockwell, Southwest London, developed by Spiritbond in partnership with University of the Arts London. Made up of 328 bedrooms and studio flats, of which 258 reserved for use by UAL, Acme had 24 ground studios, and larger open space that became a shared “transitional” studio for recent graduates of CSM’S BA fine art course. Rent was set at half Acme’s usual price, around £20 a week per artist. The programme developed at the Glassyard as a model, would go on to influence and inspire the templates at future sites

Another development for new-build affordable studios was a principal output of this project and was in High House Studios, a mixed-use studios and work/live units designed by the architects Hat Projects, who detail: “The brief was not for a ‘beautiful’ building, but one that was robust, flexible, inexpensive, and met fairy precise requirements for ‘daylighting’ and studio space”. The choice to build outside of the city, in Thurrock, Essex, where land prices are lower, kept the building costs down, which kept the rents low for the artists.

High House Studios is situated within High House Production Park – a long-term collaboration between the Royal Opera House, Creative & Cultural Skills, Acme Studios, Thurrock Council and Arts Council England, together with the department of Business Innovation and Skills, Communities and Local Government and their agencies. The park and its hubs of creative industry also allowed this development to become a self—sustaining site of world-class excellence and encouraged regeneration in the area of Thurrock.

For Acme and our partners, the process of being involved in The KTP taught us on how artists are using their studios now, and what their needs for studios are in the future, the findings from the KTP led to the constructions of new buildings and new schemes to better help graduates work and live. Research and development remain core activities for the future of Acme and its partners.