Extraordinary Spaces and Extraordinary People: Bow Arts’ Open Studios 2015

Bow Arts’ annual open studios are a highlight of the arts calendar and one of the most vibrant and well attended arts events in London, which on average attracts more than 6,000 visitors.Now in its 20th year, Bow Open Studios 2015 is set to be one of the biggest yet, with members of the public, curators and collectors given the opportunity to meet some of the best young artists working in London today in their own creative workspaces.

Bow Open Studios 2015 is entirely free and will take place Friday 19th June 6-9pm and Saturday 20th June 1-5pm featuring over 150 artists and designers. Gallery Director, Rosamond Murdoch will also be holding curated studio tours throughout the weekend.

This this year’s guest curator is Dr Shahida Bari, Lecturer in Romanticism from Queen Mary University of London and regular radio broadcaster working in culture, philosophy and politics.

Bow Arts was established in 1995 as an educational arts charity in East London. To mark their 20th anniversary, Bow Arts recently opened a new artist studio complex in Wapping. The new studios are housed in ‘Fortress Wapping’ – ex-home to News International, which contains an amazing Grade II listed rum warehouse.

This is just a stone’s throw from the original site of the very first artist studio warehouse at St Katherine Dock which was opened in 1968 by Bridget Riley. These 90 new studios come at a crucial time when young artists are increasingly being pushed out of the city by rising rent prices.

Bow Arts supports a community of over 400 artists with affordable, secure, creative workspace in the heart of London’s Artist Quarter. It aims to support community renewal in East London by delivering arts and creative services. Although Bow’s work now expands across the whole of East London, it began at Bow Road where the charity still houses approximately 120 studios in two historic buildings.

The City’s art and cultural scene is vitally important to the capital’s global competitiveness andbusinesses come to London because it attracts creative, dynamic professionals from a range of sectors. But, the changing property market threatens the loss of a large proportion of artists’ workspaces and Bow Arts strives to ensure that there is still space devoted to the arts. To make this happen, Bow Arts works closely with a number of partners including East Thames, Poplar HARCA, Crisis, Tower Hamlets Council and Newham Council, and joined the National Portfolio of Arts Council England in April 2012.

Schools have always been a key partner for Bow Arts and their education programme is at the heart of the organisation, taking world-class artists into schools to help to improve the lives of children and young people. Their projects, workshops and training are proven to raise achievement, deliver on school improvement priorities and provide top-quality learning experiences. Rob Smith, Head of Education & Learning, commented, teachers recognise that pupils’ learning experiences aredramatically improved by the high quality arts teaching of these skilled artists. One school in particular, reported a 27% increase in A*-C Art and Design results after working with us. While financial cuts have had a massive impact on the capacity for arts teaching, our work within schools has increased by about 30% a year over the last three years.

Bow Arts also runs the Nunnery, a contemporary art gallery housed on the ground floor of a former convent. The exhibition programme draws on the history of the area with new artist commissions and an active events programme with debates and workshops. The Gallery manages the East London Painting Prize and The Bow Arts Prize, which offers a 12-month funded studio and generous financial bursary as well as a solo exhibition at the Nunnery. Rosamond Murdoch, Gallery Director, said, the gallery’s programme unites the work of talented artists with the strong sense of history and place which marks us out from other London galleries. We are proud of our twenty year history of providing paid opportunities for artists to make work and take the important steps on the ladder of being an artist.

Marcel Baettig, Chief Executive of Bow Arts, added, Bow Arts is one of the most successful social enterprises in East London and I am delighted that our community of artists have had such a positive influence on the local communities they are a part of. Fundamentally, I enjoy filling extraordinary spaces with extraordinary people to allow them to do extraordinary things.

Roland Mouret