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The NewBridge Project: providing affordable space for artists

  • Date: 2 November 2011
  • Artform: Visual arts
  • Area: North
Andrew Maughan in his studio at The NewBridge Project Andrew Maughan in his studio at The NewBridge Project, Will Marshall

Supported by our Grants for the arts scheme, The NewBridge Project is an artist led initiative which has quickly established itself as an important cultural asset for the North East. Offering affordable studio space to over 60 contemporary visual artists, it has promoted Newcastle as a progressive city in which emerging artists can live, work and continue to develop their professional practice.

The NewBridge Project was founded in 2010 by Newcastle University Fine Art graduates Will Marshall and Will Strong (both 24), who recognised that Newcastle upon Tyne lacked an initiative that facilitated the needs of an ever-expanding network of regionally-based visual artists.

The organisation takes advantage of a rent-free lease on the 29,000 square foot building in the heart of Newcastle city centre. Benefiting from legislation whereby landlords who let an empty building to a non-profit-making organisation, they qualify for an 80% reduction in the business rates owed to the local authority.

The NewBridge Project's core vision is to initiate projects that examine and challenge artists' practice with a focus on critique and the development of new ideas. Hosting an experimental programme of exhibitions and events, The NewBridge Project advocates cooperation and collaboration between artists and organisations including BALTIC, AV Festival, Wunderbar Festival and Newcastle University in order to cultivate opportunities for making and exhibiting contemporary art.

Projects associated with the studios have included the production of CANNED, a quarterly critical writing magazine, SPECTRUM, an exhibition and publication with new commissioned writing by Cathy Lomax, John Beagles, Hugh Dichmont and Paulette Terry-Brian, and Run A Mile In My Shoes, a David Blandy solo exhibition including new work commissioned by the Bupa Great North Run.

The NewBridge Project public gallery, NewBridge Space, provides a highly visible public platform from which artists are able to curate, exhibit and explore new ways of working. It hosts a year-round programme of free exhibitions and artist talks, offering audiences opportunities to engage with the work of both emerging and established artists.

The organisation remains decidedly grass-roots and independent; the two directors, several studio committee groups and an advisory panel consisting of established artists, writers and business advisors manage all aspects of the NewBridge Project's creative direction.

Iris Priest - NewBridge Artist

"By providing affordable, city centre studio space the NewBridge Project has enabled me to develop and consolidate my practice to the extent that I have recently been able to set up as a sole trader. The studio environment and the activities which go on there - from crits to exhibitions and social events - has given me the opportunity to engage other artists, creative practitioners and networks which (when working from home) I had previously been distanced from. 

The studios are a highly supportive environment where skills sharing and the exchange of ideas happens fluidly. The exhibition space and establishment of committees - such as the magazine committee - encourages studio holders to take initiative for their professional practice and to see it as operating in an arena larger than simply studio work."

Karl de Vroomen - NewBridge Artist

"Artists need time, space and a supportive network of like-minded creatives in order to prosper. The affordability of studios at the NewBridge Project and the exciting programme of exhibitions at our gallery NewBridge Space helps to ensure that the region now retains many of its best graduates and emerging artists, offering them a fantastic platform from which to launch their creative careers."