Artsite in West Country Life – 14th December
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It’s been five years since Swindon artists worked on a remarkable idea.
The town’s central Post Office had long since closed and the building faced either more years of being left empty in the economic collapse of 2008, or converted into offices or flats.
Instead, Swindon council chiefs offered it to the artists with a deal- if they could renovate it themselves, they could have it as a gallery and studio space.
They found it six inches deep in rainwater, gapping holes in the walls, with blocked drains and mould growing up the walls.
The 11 artists tool up the challenge and threw themselves in to the renovation work. Now five years on, and Artsite, the co-operative charity they founded to work together, has just celebrated it’s most successful year yet.
When the Oxfam shop across the road became available, they took on that too, and now the whole project is growing way beyond that first damp old post office building.
As well as the original project – named “the Post Modern” after its previous incarnation, which houses ten studios and an art gallery, another five studios and a community “window” showcase their work to the world.
And the artists themselves are ambassadors of their craft, providing education, encouragements, support and resources to anyone in the town who want to get into art.
The town might have an unfair reputation through the country as a cultural vacuum, but if it has always been a hotbed of art – from the days of art classes and societies run as part of the old GWR rail works in Victorian times, to the vast public art murals that adorn the ends of terraces in the post war era.