Step into the Arena!
Arena Studios - the largest independent studio group in the North West - have started to stage exhibitions at their Arena House Duke Street base. The major question is why the organisation - which has been providing invaluable studio space for over 20 years - has only just started providing this opportunity.
Nevertheless, following the launch of a new exhibition space at the Urban Coffee Lounge in Smithdown Road, this is more welcome news for artists from Liverpool, who are otherwise provided with very few venues within the city where they can display their work.
The gallery’s director, Jim Buso claimed “The new gallery at Arena will provide a resource and focal point for artists of the North West to exhibit, exchange and engage in dialogue, as well as providing an important venue for international visitors. This will be particularly the case during the Liverpool Art Biennial in 2004.”
As well as being director, Jim also helps oversee the running of Arena - housed in the Rope Walks Cultural Quarter of Liverpool – which now faces having to charge artists five or six times the current rental cost, because of rising property costs.
But Jim thinks this is more than reasonable: “Previously artists here were only charged a peppercorn rent, but even now, the rents are still below the market value of this type of property in this type of area.”
“Arena is the only organisation of its kind in Liverpool which caters specifically for artists’ need for studio space”, Jim added. “There has been no encouragement or any initiatives from the City Council, despite Liverpool winning the European Capital of Culture award for 2008, to set up studios for artists – you would think there would have been some sort of support in this regard.
“There are a lot of empty buildings in Liverpool, which could be converted into working studios, but they remain unused.”
Their first exhibition at the Arena Gallery - which runs until 6 December - comprises a sample of the fifty artists using the studios (see review elsewhere in this issue).
There will then be an Open Exhibition at Arena, running from 12-23 December.