How to start your own artist-led space

As many of us know, there are more artists than exhibition spaces and it is pretty hard to get your work seen – or to even have a space where to create the artworks. The solution could be to stop looking for opportunities from others and create them yourself. Birmingham seems to be in full swing with a number of self-initiated artist spaces having emerged in recent times. Axisweb offer us insight into two of them: the fresh-faced Stryx, founded by six arts graduates, and the purpose-built Grand Union, founded in 2010.

The story of Stryx is an inspiring one as the collective are currently completely self-funded and the space they occupy in the Minerva Works was not much to start with – there was even no lighting for the launch event. Naturally, creative people find creative solutions and the theme of the launch became “bring your own bulb”. Guests brought various lamps and lights resulting in what you may call Stryx’x first art installation – have a look at the archive photo in the video.


Grand Union grew out of a group of artists and curators who, perhaps having been around slightly longer than the graduates of Stryx, managed to get funding from the City Council to build a specific site with 8 individual studio spaces. Currently they get support from the Arts Council for their programme (something that Stryx have on their agenda too). Having created a new space, Grand Union have become from opportunity-searching artists and curators to opportunity providers and rent their studios out to other seekers.


The increase in artist-led spaces reflects the general increase of self-employment, freelancing and flexible working in current economic climate where large institutions struggle to provide enough regular opportunities and jobs. Chances are that if you are an artist, you may also be planning to start a creative space – or have already founded one. In both cases the two interviews can give food for thought. It would be great if you shared your ideas and experience in the comments section!

text by Kati Jagel


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