Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Focal Point Gallery are proud to announce that Neobard Burnson Architects have been appointed as the architect to transform the former Beecroft Art Gallery into a complex of artist studios to house a wide range of creative practices.
The site of the new studios, which are set to be officially named in the coming weeks, have been derelict since the Beecroft Art Gallery moved to its new home on Victoria Avenue.
Plans to turn the former gallery into studios were announced in the 2018/19 capital budget, adding to significant external funding raised by Focal Point Gallery and The Beecroft Trust.
Through an application to Arts Council England’s small capital grants scheme, the project was awarded £495,000, with an additional £80,000 from Garfield Weston Foundation and Foyle Foundation. These grants cover the majority of the project costs.
The project will meet the needs of the growing artistic community in Southend-on-Sea looking to make an inward investment in their own personal development, following a demand survey in 2016 which stated 73% of respondents would consider taking a studio at this site. It also contributes to the work of the Local Enterprise Partnership, cementing Southend-on-Sea as a key player in the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, which supports the growth of cultural talent and recognises skills honed in this sector provide enterprise and employment opportunities.
Cllr Lesley Salter, Cabinet Member for Healthy Communities and Wellbeing, said: “The announcement of Neobard Burnson as the architect is a major milestone in this exciting project. The project will offer local and international artists a professional space to work and do business, and will further establish Southend-on-Sea as the cultural hotspot for the South East.”
In January 2018, hoardings were erected around the outside of the building. Local artist, David Watkins, was commissioned by Focal Point Gallery to create a temporary art installation on the hoardings. This work is inspired by the ‘six degrees of separation’, devised by American psychologist Stanley Milgram, outlining a visual map of interpersonal connections that link people into a community. Sign up to the mailing list at www.focalpoint.org.uk/artistsstudios