Arena Studios & Gallery: An Artist-Led Space in Liverpool

by Cass Art

Liverpool is a creative city full of practicing artists, engaging gallery spaces and events led by the community. One independent space that contributes to the ambitious Liveprool art scene is Arena Studios & Gallery, a registered charity and an independent space run by artists.

We caught up with Arena to find out exactly what they can offer artists in Liverpool, and how you can apply for a residency in their studios.

What sorts of things happen at Arena Studios & Gallery?

Arena Studios and Gallery was founded in 1982 and offers affordable studio space for artists and creatives in Liverpool, ranging from fine artists to illustrators and fashion designers. Led by a team of artists who volunteer their time, the studio has an ethos that promotes artistic excellence with a socially driven perspective. Arena draws upon the skills and talents of its members and encourages and supports new projects, commissions, educational teachings, workshops, exhibitions and other opportunities. Arena hosts an array of events throughout the year including exhibitions, open studios, auctions and talks.

Arena Studios 

So you’re an artist-led space – how does the affect the day to day running of the studios and gallery?

Arena is a charity, regulated by the Charities Commission, and operates in a way that responds to the needs of its members as well as its commitment to reach the wider public through inspirational and entertaining events and exhibitions. We have a board of directors which communicates regularly with the studio members to find out how they want the organisation to be run, but also to seek their involvement to make things happen. Our members are at the heart of the activities we put on in the Studios and Gallery and in the community. 

In the last 6 months we have been trying something new with our Gallery space. Our members have been offered the opportunity to use the space for 2 weeks at a time, for whatever they want. This could include making new work, experimentation, exhibiting, showing a film, giving a talk or performance, inviting an artist outside of Arena to use the space or maybe something we've not even thought of!  So far, the space has been used for exhibitions, life drawing sessions, an artist critique group, an animation workshop, a large scale commission, the development of new work and a public participation event for Light Night Liverpool. 

When it comes to the studios, our members all chip in with keeping on top of the daily running of the space and are encouraged to try their hand at taking more of a lead on individual projects or to even become a director of Arena. 

Arena Studios in Liverpool 

How do people apply to become an artist at Arena?

Arena Studios and Gallery is in Elevator, one of the iconic warehouses situated in the upcoming Baltic Triangle Cultural area. There are 22 different sized studios spaces, 24 hour access to the building and a really friendly and supportive atmosphere. If we have studios vacancies we advertise them on Art in Liverpool and the Arena website. Artists interested in a space are asked to send information about their practice and images of their work. They are then invited to view the studios and have a discussion about their work with one of the directors. A studio space in Arena could come up any time; we encourage artists who are interested in applying to arrange to have a look around the studios and join our mailing list to receive notifications of when spaces become available.

What’s one of the most memorable events you’ve hosted recently?

In May we opened for Light Night Liverpool where Arena presented 'Exquisite Cadaver' opening its doors for a fun participatory event for all the family. The public were invited to come and pay homage to the Surrealists by creating their very own Exquisite Cadaver. You may know it as ‘Exquisite Corpse’ or the parlour game ‘Picture Consequences’. In this technique, which was famously adopted by the Surrealists, people build a picture together, with individual sections concealed until the end, resulting in a fun and often rather strange ensemble!

Visitors were invited to join the Arena artists in trying their hand at the traditional parlour game, or take part in Arena's huge Exquisite Cadaver Mural. We posted some great photos on our website and even a stop motion film.

Arena Studio Event in Liverpool 

How would you describe the Liverpool Art scene?

What we think is so great about the Liverpool art scene is its diversity alongside its potential as a platform for an artist at any stage in their career to be noticed and make something exciting happen. Liverpool is a unique place, offering a large number of high profile galleries and organisations, alongside a welcoming underlying artistic community, on a smaller scale than in London, but with competing quality from talented artists making progressive work.  Another huge factor in Liverpool's artistic energy is the Liverpool Biennial which every two years generates a surge of exhibitions and events from local artists, alongside national and international names. As an independent arts organisation in Liverpool we feel very lucky to be part of an art scene that is supportive rather than competitive, offering opportunities for partnership working and which never fails to do Liverpool justice by putting on a great show.

Arena Studios and Gallery in Liverpool

Feeling inspired?

Find out more about what's happening at Arena Studios on their website.

Our newest art shop has opened in Liverpool, next to The Bluecoat, so if you're in the area feel free to stop by and browse all the art materials. Find out more details on Cass Art Liverpool here.

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