From storage units to studios: Wimbledon warehouse throws open doors to reveal creative community

Wimbledon’s Open Studios – Europe’s biggest single site art show – reveals the high demand for affordable spaces for artists, but the council ‘could do more’ to help, say staff.

Past a dusty car park and factories lined with chainlink fencing, a surprisingly colourful enterprise stands near Wimbledon’s greyhound tracks.

Wimbledon Art Studios are home to more than 230 artists and their Open Day, launched by Ainsley Harriott last week, was a chance for the artists to show off their work to buyers, collectors and the public.

The studios are subsidised to create an affordable space for artists to work at a time when funding is tight.

Open Studios coordinator Julie Proctor said local councils could do more to support artists.

She said: “When we approach the council to help us out, they want so much in return that it’s really not worth our while, we have to do this ourselves.”

However, it’s not just financial support that this project offers. Producing art can be long and lonely work, so it provides residents with a welcome community of fellow creatives.

It also aims to help the artists become independent, offering practical seminars on everything from grant applications to tax returns through an Artist Career Development Programme.

The artists’ work covers many disciplines and mediums, from painting, ceramics, weaving, photography, furniture making and textile design to sculpture.

And partly thanks to the Wimbledon Art Studios’ support, most are earning a living from their sales.

Despite the challenges working in a creative industry brings, everyone SWL spoke to agreed that our capital city is a great place to be an artist.

Jonny Love and Sam Jordan, LoveJordan collaboration, said: “London is a fantastic place to be an artist. There are lots of collectors and art lovers and it’s a really inspiring city.”

Since the first six artists moved in, in 1993, the studios have helped to bring regeneration to an otherwise neglected part of Wandsworth.

As demand was so high for a space in the converted paper warehouse, owner Nigel Holman had another art space purpose-built beside it.

The ultra-modern Scandinavian-style building looks like a shed on stilts, and hosts an extra 54 studio spaces on top of the original 173.

Matthew Joseph, photographer explained why he chose Wimbledon Art Studios as his base: “There’s a great community of different creatives here, and the space just works.”

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