We aim to offer this support to more graduates and students within local arts education programmes, prioritising those on low-incomes who have faced barriers accessing arts facilities and affordable studio space, due to physical or mental health issues, challenging circumstances, and the cost-of-living crisis.
Drawing on our own experiences in Southend as recent graduates, and from data collected in a survey we conducted with creative graduates at University Centre South Essex in 2022*, we identified a need for affordable, supportive workspaces for early career artists. We have researched existing local studio spaces, and found they all have long waiting lists, and most are inaccessible to disabled users. Further research into graduate outcome data (www.hesa.ac.uk), shows there were no creative graduates from South Essex College for Further and Higher Education (now called University Centre South Essex College), recorded as entering work in their field**, which clearly shows there is a gap in provision.
Working closely with the University Centre South Essex College, and other local colleges and arts education programmes, we will develop workshops which are flexible to learners’ individual needs and aspirations. This programme will nurture a self-guided practice in the transition from student to working artist, that is so crucial to their career after leaving local arts education programmes. In addition to this, with the arts being drastically cut back on the curriculum, we will collaborate with schools to demonstrate a pathway into the arts and provide creative opportunities for them while still attending school, including workshops, studio tours, artist talks and advice.
Showcasing new work in an end of year show with networking and fundraising events will give our emerging artists maximum exposure, including features on our website and social media platforms. We aim to help creatives find careers locally and support the retention of creative graduates, creating a better and more inclusive cycle of arts training in our local area.
Our work will also involve the wider community, collaborating with youth centres, SEND and mental health groups, the deaf and disabled, the elderly and residential homes, homeless charities and other marginalised groups, promoting creative opportunities for all.
theblokhouse studio aims to be a hub of cultural activity for emerging artists, embracing equality and diversity, offering support for a mixed range of abilities, and providing a springboard for local talent. We want to create a space that encompasses well-being and accessibility through art practice.
*Available on request.
**Data recorded for academic years 2020/21