In 2018, arts organisation Terrestrial came to Weston-super-Mare to run a year long programme of socially engaged arts adventures with different community groups in the town. During their research and through speaking with local artists and organisers, they learnt that creatives in the town were crying out for affordable, accessible space for them to gather, work and develop their practice in a safe and friendly environment. Terrestrial then worked with North Somerset Council to open a free community studio in an empty shop unit on the High Street.
Terrestrial has supported us as a group of artists to take on the management of Weston Artspace moving forwards. In terms of what the building offers, downstairs is a flexible space where artists can host events, workshops, rehearsals and meetings. Upstairs is shared studios for anyone to use for their own work. So far, we have more than 100 writers, photographers, painters, designers, theatre artists, musicians and producers signed up to use the space. Anyone is welcome to become a member.
Our aim is to welcome all creatives into the space regardless of what discipline they work in and what stage they are at in their careers, even if that is right at the beginning as they seek to gain confidence in what they do. We want to provide a safe, welcoming, inclusive, member led space where people can play, make connections, experiment, have fun and take risks with their creative practice.
As with so many other art spaces and organisations, lockdown has been difficult for us as one of the things we love most is being able to support our members and provide an open space for people to drop in and work which might not be possible in their home environment. We have worked with Culture Weston to host fortnightly online conversations for members and other local creatives to come together, socialise and continue to keep the Artspace ethos and spirit alive. We have also been providing regular creative prompts via our social media channels in the hope of inspiring people to be creative and to continue to play and experiment even though we cannot meet in person currently. We are also about to launch a programme of artist takeovers in our window so that members are able to display work and so that we can continue to engage with the public whilst we have to remain closed.
In the longer term, we want to continue to be an integral part of the arts and cultural landscape in Weston-super-Mare. Our space is rented for the next year at least as a ‘Meanwhile Space, which means that our future in the building is not permanently secure. However, we feel our strength is in the people we have gathered to form our community. We ARE Weston Artspace and are so much more than a building. Wherever our community inhabits, we want to keep on being a central part of building and supporting a vibrant arts scene locally. We want to build on some of the great links we have made with Weston College and University Centre Weston to give graduates from their creative programmes a home when they leave their courses. We want to continue to empower people to grow as artists, feel confident in what they do and be able to seek support from other members. Mostly, we never want to lose our reputation for being a place where everyone is welcome and you are always offered a cup of tea, a chat and a friendly face when you come to any of our events or gatherings .