In October 2021 Studio Voltaire completed a £2.8 million capital project to expand and redevelop our site and programmes, the most ambitious transition in our 27–year history.
This timely and transformative development has:
- Provided a 42% increase in affordable artists’ studio space
- Increased public space by 233%
- Established The Studio – a new, dedicated learning and events space, with its own garden
- Created a new public garden and café
- Safeguarded and broadened the provision of studios for artists with disabilities
- Introduced two residency apartments to host visiting artists and curators onsite for the first time
- Commissioned two permanent artworks by Anthea Hamilton and Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan
- Fully renovated our buildings and made them considerably more environmentally sustainable
- Established the first–ever permanent House of Voltaire
- Made our organisation more financially resilient
The Studio Voltaire Capital Project offered an unprecedented opportunity to transform and expand our support of artists as well as its cultural offering to local and international audiences.
Artist’s Studios – Building a Community of Artists
The provision of artists’ studios was a fundamental aspect of the project. We had an exciting opportunity to build an essential artistic community in South London.
In just three years, London has lost 17% of studio spaces. Workspace for artists is estimated to be cut by a further 17% in the next five years (Mayor of London’s Artists’ Workspace Data Note). A sharp increase in property values and business rates, as well as changes to planning, have contributed to this problem. Artists are being priced out of the city despite one in six jobs in London being in the creative industry. Artists urgently need secure and affordable spaces to work.
The new scheme has provided a 42% increase in affordable studios through the building of a new mezzanine level. Studio Voltaire’s existing 515m² studio building has been completely renovated to provide a range of high-quality, light–filled studios.
The Studio Voltaire Capital Project has safeguarded and broadened the provision of workspace for artists with disabilities, through our partnership with ActionSpace. The leading disability arts organisation has expanded its current activities onsite by increasing their studio provision by 300%.
Importantly, the Communal Studio provides a much–needed, lower–priced alternative to artists who do not need a traditional studio. These spaces allow for the provision of additional cultural workers including curators, writers and educators, further contributing to our vibrant studio culture.
The scheme created two Residency Studios enabling us to host artists working within our programmes onsite for the first time, as well as introducing new short–term residencies for international artists and curators.
A new production workshop, supported by Henry Moore Foundation, provides extensive new facilities for residents and visiting artists. An Artists’ Kitchen provides an important shared social space, fostering a vibrant artistic community.
Transforming our offer to audiences
The scheme, designed by Matheson Whiteley, unlocked the full potential of our site for the first time and has completely transformed how visitors experience our programmes. Our buildings and programmes have become more welcoming, porous and engaging.
A major consideration of the project was how our buildings engage with audiences and our local neighbourhood. Our newly developed buildings and improved facilities have greatly increased our visibility and reach within our local area, engaging new audiences via public events and permanent commissions onsite and within the public realm.
Studio Voltaire’s main entrance has changed to a generously planted, public garden – offering a welcoming and inviting space to encourage use by neighbours, local residents and visitors, who also benefit from a new street–facing café.
An important aim of the scheme was to preserve the much–loved character of Studio Voltaire’s gallery. Our distinctive space, a Victorian former mission hall, has been completely renovated and now benefits from the introduction of heating as well as a bespoke lighting system. For the first time, we are able to offer a year–round programme of exhibitions, commissions and performance.
Studio Voltaire has an outstanding track record of supporting artists at a pivotal stage in their careers through programmes of exhibitions and commissions. The Studio Voltaire Capital Project furthered our scope for presenting ambitious and experimental new work by international artists for the very first time in the UK, as well as providing a platform for emerging and under–represented practices.
A series of permanent artworks provide opportunities for playful, unexpected and inspiring encounters with artworks embedded within and throughout the organisation.
Anthea Hamilton (b. 1978, London), a long–term resident of the local area and a studio holder at Studio Voltaire, has created an artist’s garden for the site, her first–ever permanent work. The project, both an artwork and a garden, has form a new, welcoming public entrance to Studio Voltaire.
Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan (b. 1971/1967, West Yorkshire/Norfolk) have produced vibrant installations across Studio Voltaire’s public toilets, including bespoke, hand–glazed ceramic tiles which draw from the artists’ key motifs, in particular staring, cartoon–like faces.
A New Community Space
The capital project created the Events Studio – our first–ever learning and events space with its own garden, allowing us to expand our free and innovative participatory programmes in a dedicated space.
Our Participation Programme works to develop a closer relationship between artists, the production of work and an active, engaged audience through a programme of workshops, residencies, events and commissions. We are able to offer more free activities to local schools, community groups and individuals who do not have a space of their own, or who do not ordinarily take part in arts activities.
This project has dramatically increased Studio Voltaire’s role within the local community and significantly increased the number of participants who are able to take part in these programmes, greatly supporting community cohesion and lifelong learning.
The Events Studio supports an extended public programme of artists' talks, panel discussions, screenings and performance, significantly enriching the depth of engagement amongst new and existing audiences.