The Cambridge Art Salon

We caught up with Ruthie Collins, the driving force behind the Cambridge Art Salon, an exciting new gallery and community art space due to launch in Cromwell Road on the 14th September....

How did the Cambridge Art Salon come about?

The Cambridge Art Salon was a direct result of Travel Lodge woefully getting the go-ahead to turn our former studios, based inside Eastern Court on Newmarket Rd, Cambridge, into a hotel. That original space, Positiveworld Studios, was inspired by a warehouse studio that was my home for a while in North London - a former fashion factory in Seven Sisters. And the real sense of culture shock I felt coming back to Cambridge and realising there was nothing like it for creatives here. We were a modest open plan space, housing 20 artists of different mediums - and the project had taken 18 months to make financially sustainable - a real labour of love.

Not wanting to abandon all hope - and all the footwork gone into creating a fledgling creative hub in Cambridge, I started looking for alternative premises to save our studios. I was open to pretty much every opportunity that came our way - my bank cashier even gave me a contact for a potential space just through me talking about what I was doing while being served! Within a couple of weeks, I was incredibly lucky to be offered an old motorbike shop in the heart of Romsey and after months of negotiations, we were given the space at affordable rent and decided to rename it the Cambridge Art Salon to give it a local identity (the word 'salon' connoting both a space for intellectual discussion and fashion, too). It's heaps bigger than our old space and we were delighted. The studios were saved!

What will the Salon bring to Cambridge and the artistic community?

The Cambridge Art Salon is unique in that it brings together a diverse range of creative artists and businesses, offering Cambridge a nurturing space for any member of the public to work on their creative practice. It's the only 'arts enterprise' incuabator of its kind in Cambridge and is defined by inclusivity, affordability and excellence. We have a community gallery, where the public can show their work, take part in or run a class. We have a shop as part of the gallery that sells residents' work, too. Plus I've been offering funded creative business support sessions to anyone who has a creative idea they'd like to turn into a business, freelancers, artists and arts enterprises. Best of all, we are friendly. Mutliple visitors have commented on the tranquil nature of the space - it has its own atmosphere which I think is partly born out of Romsey's chilled-out charm, but also the artists who work on site and exhibit there. We are down to earth people making cool things happen - and helping the community do the same.

Laurence Epps

You support a vibrant group of artists, please tell us more about them...

The artists are a vibrant cross section of creative practitioners working in fashion, photography, the media, visual art, illustration, ceramics, sculpture and stained glass. They come from different backgrounds - some, like illustrators Peter Sutton and Anne Cunningham with years of experience in the creative industries; others, like illustrator Louise Pigott and ceramicist Laurence Epps have recently graduated and are just starting out with incipient - but significant success. Our resident stained glass artist Jill Fordham has taught many stained glass artists in Cambridge, while our sculptress Giulia is also an entrepreneur in her own right and runs an Italian language school.

We are very lucky to have Alexander Macdonald working on site - who's a bit of a young rising star photographer in Cambridge and works with some fantastic clients. Plus there's CAMO (Cambridge Arts and Media Organisation) who are setting up a social enterprise using film to benefit community groups and provide vocational skills to trainee film makers. I work on site doing coaching for imaginative individuals and providing business support to creative practices and arts enterprises, run events for women writers and artists, plus am Deputy Editor for Inspirational Woman Magazine... (and love creating mixed media art).

Dan Biggs

Our visual artists are all emerging, talented and passionate about what they do: Dan Biggs, who fuses mixed media, recycled art and street influences to produce distinctive work; Natalie Barden, who's lovely 'pet portraits' business is becoming popular in Cambridge; Susie Windeatt, whose stall locals in Cambridge may have seen on Trinity Street crafts market; painter Maria whose, rich, colourful works are a joy; and art therapist Louise Chapman who will be using the space to run art well-being classes as well as work on her own vibrant practice; plus portraiture/installation artist Jenny Kirner who teaches drawing classes at the space, too. We also have recently welcomed painter Ceri Anne Littlechild whose stunning portraits have been creating quite a stir in Cambridge.

Ruth Schmidt

Then there are the fashion designer-makers: two fantastic milliners, Daniel Pilecki (recently shortlisted to design for Stephen Jones) and Karen Lewis, whose creations are just exquisite; Ursula Zeller who is studying fashion design at Anglia Ruskin; Ruth Schmidt, whose recycled bags are just gorgeous; and Edda Barra, an Icelandic dressmaker who creates fabulous bespoke dresses.

Plus there are all the exhibiting artists showing work in the community gallery from Cambridge and across the region. And those running classes - from the Cambridge Design Collective's monthly sewing classes, The Stich Up; to local art platform Changing Space's co-ordinator Anji Jackson who's starting up an Egyptian dance class; and local Romsey resident Krishna's community art class for parents. I'm also providing 'retreats' for women writers (see www.thecreativesalon.co.uk). There's loads more, too - check the website www.cambridgeartsalon.org.uk for details.

What are your goals and aspirations for the future?

Personally, this next year is a big one for me - am having my first book published, A Modern Day Sisterhood, in September 2012 (we are planning a book tour in the States already) ... and having a baby!

We have a range of artists and creatives from the community involved in the Cambridge Art Salon who would like to see a long term, central art centre and creative hub for the public of Cambridge that is inclusive - for everyone. I'd love this project to be a stepping stone for that. I'm also working on special professional coaching programmes for our resident artists and others in Cambridge who want to see their creative projects really succeed. In the not too distant future we'll be setting up a monthly art networking event, The Romsey Art Club, plus the residents are hosting a Christmas Fair this December. I'd also like to see Positiveworld Studios transition into a foundation helping other creatives out there in the world, do amazing things in the community.

How would artists interested in hiring the gallery space for exhibitons or workshops contact you?

Check the website www.cambridgeartsalon.org.uk and follow the contact details there. We look forward to welcoming you!

Welcome to the Cambridge Creative Network where we invite creative professionals to promote their work through our gallery, find events and opportunities and network with other like-minded people in Cambridge. Want to join us? Apply here...

About Karen Jinks

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