This month's Culture Chat is in Guildford meeting Lauren Thompson, gallery curator and studio manager, at New House Art Space, located close to the train station, Odeon Cinema, and the town centre. Lauren tells us about the building and its residents.
A unique space
Dom Frazer, founder of The Boileroom Music and Art Studios took on the New House building in late 2021, when it was earmarked for demolition. After refurbishing during that year, it opened its doors and now accommodates 20 artist studios, a reception, café, gallery, and an exhibition/workshop space. Lauren says, "Dom Frazer recognised the potential of the building, the natural light downstairs for an exhibition space and the areas on the three floors for studios, which she converted into individual units for creatives to rent."
In June 2022 Dom invited Lauren, a visual artist, to join the New House as a manager and part of the curatorial team, and the two have been working together to shape the space ever since, with the collective of creatives that call the building their home.
The studios are occupied by a mix of people working in different disciplines, including emerging artists and those who are more established, offering each other a strong balance of support and inspiration.
Current resident Nerrisa Pratt is the creator of The Bargello Edit, a contemporary tapestry craft company specialising in fantastic kits and supplies. Her studio neighbours include Mads Ellegård Skovbakke, a cartoonist/ illustrator, and Kazland, a visual artist creating paintings, prints, books and clothing. On the top floor are The Logical Choice offices, which offer creative production services, such as fine-art printing and graphic design.
Lauren says, "It's really beautiful to see the different collaborations that come from people sharing a creative space. It's an inspiring building to come into every morning, with residents congregating in the café area, talking about what they are working on. As people get to know each other, they start discussing ways of collaborating. There's a great sense of community, especially important coming out of the pandemic when residents and other creatives said how shut off they had felt. It's a safe space where artists can try new ideas and express themselves without feeling judged; we have a very supportive community."
Exhibitions and events
The exhibition programme at New House is varied and changes regularly. Lauren says,
"Our wonderful residents have a showcase in the gallery 4 to 9 May and we are very excited. It's a great opportunity to view some of the residents' latest projects, in many disciplines, from fine art to furniture. We also have a mixture of open calls where we share a brief and concept for any artists to respond to. We encourage different responses, whether a musician plays on opening night, videos, or 3D sculptures; we're not just about having art on the walls. Our next open call will be for our summer exhibition, themed as 'In Dreams' inviting as many people as possible to share their artwork."
The space encourages visitors to be part of the ongoing dialogue of how art can affect people differently and invites a reaction. The upcoming photography exhibition 'Inside Out' is a partnership project supported by Guildford Arts and the mental health organisation, Oakleaf. See below for upcoming events at the Oakleaf.
The exhibition will feature portraits of ten local people who responded to an open call. There will be two portraits of each person, one taken by Kayt Webster-Brow and the other by Lauren. Kayt's will represent the person's 'outside' persona - the face they show the world. The other, taken by Lauren, uses a long exposure to highlight perceived elements of the person's inner self - the self that usually remains hidden.
Lauren says, "On the opening night, we'll leave postcards encouraging people to add their responses and hang them on the walls. We like to include an interactive element and a sense that when you come into the space, you are welcome to be part of what is happening within it."
For those looking to participate in on-trend, contemporary projects, the craft room offers workshops where Nerrisa Pratt and visiting creatives welcome you to take part. Lauren says, "the workshops have really taken off and are very popular; whether it's a 3D embroidery session or making a bag in a day, people love to come together, relax and create." More information on workshops at Newhouse Art can be found on their web pages. Workshops. – New House Art Space
The venue is available to hire and has movable walls enabling it to be configured differently for solo artists, group exhibitions or events.
Frida's Coffee House
Named after New House founder Dominique Frazer's French bulldog, who takes her name from legendary artist Frida Kahlo, the recently opened coffee house is an excellent addition to the building. Whether or not you have a studio at New House, you can enjoy a coffee, lunch, or a pastry from Frida's Café as you sit amongst the gallery artworks. And, with exhibition opening nights and most events free to attend, you'll have many reasons to keep coming back.
As I leave, I overhear a conversation between some creatives working in the gallery. They are discussing word pronunciation which quickly moves onto the accents of the Great British Bake Off presenters; it makes me smile hearing them chat away and sums up the atmosphere of New House Art Space; it's inspiring but not pretentious, offering a warm welcome to those who cross the threshold.
New House Art Space currently has studio spaces available, so if you are looking for a creative space to work in Guildford, visit their website New House Art Studios
Dates for your diary
Thursday 4 May 6pm, SAOS Launch and Networking Event and Residents Summer Showcase.
13 May to 21 May, 'Inside Out' photography exhibition. Register for a free private view ticket on the 12 May on the Inside Out Photography Eventbrite pages.
Friday 19 May 10am to 12noon. Oakleaf will be leading a Self-Care Therapeutic Art workshop at New House 10am to 12noon.
To reserve a space email Jane Felton - firstname.lastname@example.org
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