Last week we had the pleasure of touring Art Hub Studios, Woolwich, with CLT Ambassador Emmanuel Unaji. An artist himself, recently celebrating a postponed graduation from Kingston University London (due to COVID-19,) his insight has enabled us to further understand how affordable creative workspaces can support artists’ practice.
Art Hub Studios is a non-profit, artist-run, Community Interest Company, with spaces in Deptford and Woolwich. Running affordable artist space for over 20 years, the studios are dedicated to supporting artists at all stages of their careers.
Emmanuel joined Art Hub at the beginning of January, his rapidly growing practice meant he was unable to continue working from his home studio. He noted that, while lucky compared to many or his peers to be based just outside of London and able to work from home, a lack of space and the distance from London’s creative network was stifling the development of his practice and brand.
Work is a huge part of his life, but like many of us since the pandemic, he recognised the value of some separation from work. At his new studio in Art Hub he has benefitted from that separation, a larger space, and being closer to the centre of London and its creative networks. Emmanuel has previously spoken about the need for art to explore commerciality and accessibility to become more sustainable in a modern/changing market. He said the community and network facilitated by affordable studio space is integral in increasing visibility and developing a creative practice. However, studies in 2018 showed 340,500 creatives left the capital for other English regions, and that a quarter of London’s studios were at risk of shutting down by 2023.
With his new studio, Emmanuel has been able to fulfill large commissions such as a 9ft banner commissioned by Peabody and Royal Greenwich community activation and two large canvases for Adidas x Creative Debuts Exhibition. The sheer amount of space in the new studios has helped create works that definitely wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Emmanuel Unaji Studio, Art Hub Studios Woolwich by Bleur Gallery, Lemuel Unaji (All Images)
Across both buildings, Art Hub also offers printmaking, ceramics, and carpentry facilities, as well as a screen-printing service. The extensive resources and support have enabled him to look into expanding his wearable art collections, experimenting with materials, finishes and fulfilling bigger opportunities. While we can’t say too much right now, we can look forward to seeing more from his range later on in the year.
Emmanuel specifically chose the studios because of the range of disciplines it supports and houses, providing the ability to learn from osmosis. The low rent, deposit, and two month rolling contract give artist flexibility and relieves financial burdens when developing their careers.
Additional facilities, such as the gallery (based in Deptford), offer an affordable platform for studio members, local artists and students to increase their profile. The community created across studios, and the gallery space, allows people to expand their network more easily, supporting their contemporaries and vice versa. Emmanuel explained the importance of the ecosystem or network of artists: e.g the buyer, the gallery representation, and the network. The romance of the isolated artist working in the studio is no longer viable.
Art Hub currently houses 200+ creatives, with free use of an extensive range of facilities. Through their studios, gallery, and community outreach programme they also look to involve more people in the arts and increase the number of courses and activities offered to young people. Part of an underfunded sector at grassroots level and a neglected part of the national curriculum, Art Hub is trying to promote the positive impact of art on children, in education and wellbeing in adulthood.