‘Studio’ is a terribly glamorous word, isn’t it? It conjures up images of whitewashed walls and natural light. Perhaps your mind sees a model reclining, canvases everywhere or photographers backgrounds. It suggests creative freedom. It’s also a romantic faraway dream for most artists. Studio space is, in this area, practically the holy grail. Which given the amount of practising artists here is astonishing.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out why: Maidenhead is expensive. If you’re reading this and live here please feel free to make the ‘DUH!’ face and roll your eyes at this point. I know I’m stating the obvious. However, when you look at the amount of long-term unoccupied offices in the area, you have to wonder why so few of them have been put to good use, even temporarily. Would it be entirely outside the realms of possibility to strike a rent-free deal with artists on the proviso that they cover the bills? It keeps premises safe, occupied and cost-free to the landlord.
Even in our town hall there are a surplus of appropriate rooms to the rear of the controversial Desborough Suite that could make impressive working studio space, yet sit unoccupied. While the debate rages on, these could quickly be put into use. What a waste.
The key here is ‘space’. It doesn’t have to be a vast Picasso-esque studio, just more than a few square feet in corners of living rooms, bedrooms, garages and sheds. Somewhere that works in progress can remain for the duration of their creation.
There are several fantastic examples of artist-led organisations all over the country, where studios, education and gallery sit side-by-side. Bow Arts in East London and New Greenham Arts in Newbury both enjoy an active role in their respective communities as well as being home to many practising artists.
No-one expects something for nothing, but reciprocal arrangements that can start the ball rolling could create an engaged community of working artists in Maidenhead that addresses a huge issue currently being ignored by the current debate on arts provision in Maidenhead.