Edinburgh artists ‘drawn’ to transformed office block studios

First artist arrivals at Outer Spaces Studios at 3 Redheughs Ave as artist Laura Bullock sets up her studio. (Photo: Neil Hanna)

A FORMER office building at Edinburgh Park has become a temporary home for 42 artists, as the vacant space is repurposed by creators specialising in sculpture, illustration, textile design, printmaking and more.  

Outer Spaces, the arts organisation behind the initiative, recently received a £50,000 funding boost from Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to offer the rent-free spaces to Scottish creators. The Younger Building, which was previously occupied by RBS, spans four floors and has been reconfigured into large and small studios now in use by local artists to create and share their work.

The 90,000 sq. ft. building’s new users include 17 recent graduates from Edinburgh College of Art, artists connected to Leith School of Art and three performance companies – Edinburgh Physical Theatre Lab, Snap Elastic, and Salty Dolls – as well as multimedia arts collective, Skoosh.

Artists now based at the Outer Spaces building at 3 Redheughs Avenue include illustrator and printmaker Daisy Whittle, sculptor Billy Brown, painter Remi Jablecki, book artist Gen Harrison, painter James Craig Page and printmaker Zoe Brown. 

The Edinburgh Park temporary studios are filling up, however, Outer Spaces has a further 1,000 artists on its waiting list who are looking for studio units across the country. In addition to the capital, the organisation has studios in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Greenock, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Newton Mearns, Perth, Port Glasgow and Stirling.

Working closely with commercial property agents and landlords, Outer Spaces has seen a range of empty retail, industrial and office buildings converted to temporary studios for creators in recent years. Areas in Edinburgh’s Westside Plaza Shopping Centre, Holburn House on Union Street in Aberdeen and a former furniture store at Telford Retail Park in Inverness are also currently in use by artists in the organisation’s network. 

Studio leases run on a rolling month-by-month basis and when commercial spaces are let Outer Spaces works with artists to find new studio spaces on the same terms.

Shân Edwards, director and CEO of Outer Spaces, said: “Following the pandemic and the subsequent shift in people’s shopping and working habits, there is a raft of vacant commercial and retail buildings across Scotland’s office parks and high streets. Instead of continuing to lie empty, we have grasped the opportunity to use these buildings to provide spaces which artists can use as temporary studios for making and showcasing their work.

“Outer Spaces can offer artists a unique environment where they can work in new ways and stretch their practice without any prescribed outcomes. This spirit of possibility guides our programming with artists and the cultural impact we want to have in the towns and cities where we work.

“We believe that art has the power to transform communities and enrich people’s lives and thanks to the funding support from SIS and other partners we can use art to give these empty properties a new lease of life. As well as supporting the creative community with a physical space, we are also helping to unlock new opportunities for collaboration and creating networks by having a range of artists working together under one roof.”

Chris Jamieson, head of investment at Social Investment Scotland, added: “Scotland has a thriving creative community but access to physical studio space continues to be a big challenge for artists. Outer Spaces has an innovative model which sees empty commercial units repurposed temporarily, bringing benefits both for the arts community and the local areas they operate in. It is great to see the immediate success at Edinburgh Park and we look forward to seeing which buildings are taken over next.”

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