Bristol is blessed with a number of major centres for the arts. One of these centres is Spike Island, based on Cumberland Road, overlooking the River Avon. Spike Island was somewhere that I knew of. However, I did not fully appreciate what it was – and how it related to the Spike Print Studio that is based in the same building. Having been shown around this fascinating place, I feel very excited to have such a great facility in the heart of Bristol, and will definitely be making many more visits.
Spike Island is an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design. It is home to a gallery, café and working space for artists, designers and creative businesses. Spike Island is designed to be a vibrant hub for production, presentation and debate in the creative arts. They offer opportunities for audiences to engage directly with creative practices through participation and discussion. Spike Island’s vision is to position art as central to society. They aim to do this in two ways:
• by offering a high quality, challenging programme of exhibitions and events
• by fostering a dynamic and critically engaged community of artists and designers.
Spike Island collaborates with local and regional partners as well as with international institutions, museums and universities. These collaborations ensure that the excellent creative work produced in Bristol is shared with the rest of the world, and it also means that Bristol-based artists can benefit from making connections with internationally renowned contributors to the contemporary art world.
Spike Island is based in a huge 80,000 square foot building that used to be a Brooke Bond tea packing factory. Over recent years this building has evolved to house:
• Art galleries and other facilities that host a year-round programme of public exhibitions, talks and activities
• Over 70 artists in low-cost studios
• Other contemporary arts organisations such as Picture This, Works|Projects, Situations and Spike Print Studio
• A range of creative companies in fields including: fine art fabrication; graphic, web, product and interactive design; typography; film and video production; CGI; illustration and animation
• Shared space used by over 90 members of the Associates network
• Students and staff from the University of the West of England Fine Art BA programmes
Spike Associates is a membership network of artists, writers, curators, designers and other creative practitioners. Built on a culture of collaboration and experimentation, the group offers a dynamic context for the development of individual practices by facilitating new connections, hosting critical discussions and supporting ambitious projects.
The Associates programme of activities is shaped by members and includes regular trips, critiques, projects and events. Associates have recently travelled together to the Venice and Istanbul biennials and to British Art Show 7 in Plymouth. Members gather at regular peer critique sessions to share their work and are invited to suggest curators, artists and academics to invite for talks and one on one studio visits. Recent visitors have included Jan Verwoert, Sally O’Reilly, Adam Szymczyk, Mark Fisher and Ruth Proctor.
Professional development is offered through practical workshops on topics such as taxes and social media, panel discussions on career paths in the arts, and access to the advice and expertise of Spike Island staff and other advisors. Spike Associates support members’ practices through travel and project bursaries, opportunities for exhibiting and curating, and strong ties to other artist-led groups across the country such as Extra Special People in Birmingham and S1 Artspace in Sheffield. The network has helped a number of artist and curatorial groups to realise projects in Bristol, including Bristol Diving School and Central-Reservation.
The shared Associates Space is a flexible venue that is ideal for working, holding meetings or hosting events. It is home to a comprehensive reference library, notice board and IT facilities. The Associates membership fee is £12 per month (£8 per month for Spike Island studio holders and Spike Design tenants). This charge is used to administer the programme, to support Associates events and to renew resources. If you would like further information about Spike Associates, please contact Associates coordinator Lucy Drane, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spike Island Open
Spike Island is committed to supporting artists and designers. However, they also place huge emphasis on creating opportunities for audiences to have encounters with artists. One of the ways that this is achieved is through their annual Spike Island Open, which takes place on Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th and Monday 6th May 2013 (11am–5pm) with free entry.
Spike Island is not just a gallery or a café – it’s a place where art is made, exhibited and discussed. On any given day, artists are working away in studios, designers and other creative practitioners are running their businesses and students are learning. It’s unlike any other organisation in the United Kingdom, both for those based here and for visitors who engage directly with these people, processes and conversations through our public programme.
This year’s Open focuses on showcasing the production and processes that make Spike Island such a dynamic hub and visitors are encouraged to get involved themselves. Groups and organisations based in the building run special events designed to introduce their work. You can try out your own creative skills in one of our hands-on activities, chill out in the Associates space, see an exhibition or get into a debate with one of the presenters at Speakers’ Corner. Pop-up cafés around the building offer a variety of meals, snacks and treats for visitors in need of refreshments.
The weekend kicks off with the second annual Harbourside Arts Night on Friday 3rd May, which sees Spike Island join forces with neighbouring arts venues M Shed, Arnolfini, Works|Projects and Bristol Diving School to present an evening of new art. Everyone comes together from 9pm at Spike Island for an afterparty featuring drinks, dancing and music from special guest Bobby Tank, plus DJ sets by the Howling Owl Records gang and Randek.
For more information about everything that is happening at Spike Island and how you can be involved, visit their website: http://www.spikeisland.org.uk