Member Spotlight: The Art House

The Art House

Last month we provided a brief insight into The Art House by sharing details of their up and coming events and also the launch of Belay, an exciting programme that helps artists to make their creativity pay. This month we touch base with Heidi Waddington, Marketing and Communications Manager of this visual arts organisation to find out more about their role and plans for the future.


Sum up your business in just a couple of sentences?

The Art House is a registered charity, and an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation.  We provide time, space and support for artists to develop their work and connect with audiences.

We do this through:

  • Residencies and Commissions
  • Artist Mentoring, focused on artist development
  • Artist-led sharing of best practice
  • Physical and virtual exhibitions, workshops and events


Can you provide details of your core services, including any examples of the artists?

We currently have around 180 artist members based all over the UK. We provide support to members by profiling their work online, researching and distributing opportunities through our monthly bulletin and through workshops, 121s and online resources.

Often members come to us for support with particular projects and we help them with things such as marketing, funding applications and professional development. Our Residency programme offers funded development opportunities to Visual Artists. Each year we fund and work intensively with around 20 artists from a variety of disciplines.

This year The Art House have received funding through the European Regional Development Fund to run a Creative Mentoring Programme for Visual Artists living and working in Wakefield. The BELAY Programme offers FREE 121 mentoring, workshops, events and peer support to artists who want to find ways to make their creativity pay. The programme launches on 26 August with a FREE event for artists at The Art House. Full details can be found on The Art House website here:

We currently have 13 artists’ studios in our building in the centre of Wakefield and we will add another 34 studios when we open The Old Library conversion in Spring 2015. We also have accommodation, meeting rooms, a state of the art print studio and a laser cutter, which artists use on a pay-as-you-go basis. We are currently working with one of our Studio Tenants, Matt Kenyon on a Digital Design and Gaming event as part of Long Division Festival in September.


What excites you about your business and the work that you do?

No two days are the same at The Art House. Since the launch of the BELAY Programme particularly, we have artists in the office most days and it’s always exciting and inspiring to hear them talk about their work and projects with such passion.

Historically we have done a lot of work with disabled artists (originally The Art House was set up to build accessible studio spaces for artists with disabilities) and I really love that The Art House is such an inclusive organisation and that we are able to support artists who might otherwise get overlooked.

Most of all it’s great to be part of a team who are all so passionate about art and are all working together to be able to offer something truly unique to Visual Artists across Yorkshire and beyond.


Tell us about a recent project/campaign?

As part of Long Division fringe we ran an event with one of our Studio holders, Matthew Kenyon. Matthew recently finished a ten-year project to produce a book celebrating Video Games Culture and Games Art. The book was called Every Day is Play and was crowd-funded through Kickstarter.

When Matthew asked us if we would help him with the launch, we jumped at the chance to host an event celebrating Digital Art. As part of the day we invited One to One Development Trust (who also have a studio at The Art House) to showcase their new interactive digital fiction series.

The Art House became a digital games hub for the day, with over 150 people coming through the doors to meet Matthew, hear about the book, interact with the digital fiction and play on the vintage Donkey Kong machine which we brought in for the weekend.


What one piece of work/ campaign, project are you most proud of?

We recently launched our new website. The old website was woefully inadequate and didn’t represent The Art House well at all. It was a huge project for us as not only did we need a site that would work for members of the public; we also needed a Members’ Area which gave every member a personal page within our site. In all, the redesign took almost six months from initial brief to launch but the feedback has really made it worth all the time, energy and effort we put into getting a bespoke site that did what we needed it to. We now have a site that we feel properly represents The Art House and what we do.


Why have you chosen to become a member of Cognitiv?

I think Cognitiv has a valuable role to play in helping to put Wakefield on the map as a vibrant and attractive place to live and work. The digital and creative sector particularly is an area in which Wakefield can excel and I want to be part of that, both as a representative of The Art House and as someone who is passionate about The Arts and its relevance to people’s quality of life.  


What are the biggest issues faced by your sector?

Funding, funding and funding. We are fortunate to be one of just 600 Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations who receive core funding for our work but the pot is shrinking and competition for public funding is fierce.

Increasingly we are having to seek out other sources of finance and join the numerous other charities trying to capture the public’s imagination and support. It requires a team of skilled, experienced and passionate individuals to be able to offer our services to artists.

Without The Art House, many of our members may struggle to find a means to develop their practice, get support and find a means of generating an income from their art. Much of the work we do doesn’t directly generate money for the organisation, as we are focussed primarily on helping artists to develop their practice and their own business – often we help artists by providing them with space which they otherwise couldn’t usually afford.

We are also one of the few organisations in the UK who pay our Resident Artists a living wage for the time they spend with us, because we believe that by supporting artists in developing their practice, they can – in turn – take something of genuine value out into the wider world.

Although we do generate income through hiring out our spaces and our membership subscription, if it weren’t for public funding and charitable giving we simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do and continue to support artists, especially those who as a result of barriers are unable to access services through other means.


What are the biggest opportunities for your sector?

Twenty years ago when I went to University, studying for a degree in the Creative Industries was seen by some as “the easy option”. I think there has been a shift in recent years, whereby making a living from the creative industries is no longer seen as a cop out.

The development of the world-wide-web has made art and artists so much more accessible and it has opened so many doors for practitioners to be able to communicate with their audiences outside galleries.

The result is that perusing  a career in the creative industries is now seen as a much more viable option for many more people – in turn that means an increasing number of professionals are able to engage with art outside traditional “arts venues”. That’s a really exciting proposition for me.

I think that as an industry we are just starting to get to grip with what technology can do for us and our audiences and it presents some really exciting opportunities for new ways in which work can be conceived, made, seen and experienced.


What do you enjoy the most about working in Wakefield?

I recently relocated to Wakefield from Hebden Bridge. As a city I think that Wakefield has what looks set to become one of the most exciting and vibrant cultural scenes in the country.

It’s great to feel a part of what I believe will be a real time of cultural renaissance in the city. I also love that Wakefield has a more intimate feel than Manchester or Leeds – I’ve been really encouraged by how generous people have been to share and help each other out.