FEATURE: How charity Hypha Studios are investing in Southport’s art scene.

All across the country, artists struggle to translate their talent, experience and education into long-term success. National charity Hypha Studios are trying to change this by offering free studio spaces to artists so they can incubate new work and engage with their communities.

Since setting up last year, Hypha Studios have successfully worked with artists in Bristol, Devonshire, Dudley, Eastbourne and London. Now applications are open for an artist to fill an empty site on London Street in Southport from January to April 2022.

Experienced contemporary art curator Camilla Cole set up the charity after she realised how much creative potential was being lost in non-gallery spaces all across the country; all artists needed was a voice. Camilla told The Welcome Southport: “Artists don’t really know how to talk to landlords and landlords don’t really know how to talk to artists. So we try to broker those relationships.”

The London Street building which will host an artist from January 17th – April 17th next year.

“If you go and speak to a landlord and say you want to use their space as an artist, they say ‘No way!’. But if you set up an organisation that says here are the great artists and we will take all the risk… the landlords are like: ‘Actually that sounds like a good idea’.”

The studio spaces provided by Hypha Studios are also open to the public to visit and shop. Cole says that this helps artists find a new audience in their local communities.

But having investment from Hypha Studios also benefits the community and the town’s regeneration; empty buildings are wasteful, boring and unattractive. “Artists are so capable. If you give them an empty space, they will often make it look better.” Camilla said. Filling spaces like the London Street site, even temporarily, breathes new life into the town’s culture.

Although based in London, Cole says that working outside the capital has been really satisfying for her and her team because of the sheer hunger for creative arts hubs in places where they may be lacking. “Because of COVID, all these amazing artists have gone from major cities back to their hometowns. So you have a huge wealth of creative growth but with no opportunities.”

Molly Stredwick’s studio in Eastbourne.

“Our very first case study, Molly, came back from London to Eastbourne during the pandemic and she quickly found an audience. She started selling work, which she had never done before. She then got three or four shows lined up afterwards. She’s been really embraced by the local community which was great.”

When considering applicants for studios, Hypha focuses on the merit of the artist’s works, how much the artist would benefit from the space and how the local community can be involved and connected to the art. Any creative medium can be considered: painting, virtual reality, poetry, music production, theatre, photography… the list is endless.

Applications for artists to fill the London Street site are open until the 5th of January at 6pm. You can apply here.

If you are interested in supporting Hypha Studios, who rely on volunteers and donations, you can donate here.

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