LONDON.- Arts Council England
s £500,000 initiative to help artists turn vacant high street shops into artistic and vibrant places is now open for applications.
From today artists are able to apply for grants to support artistic activity that will transform empty retail units into creative spaces - anything from an art gallery to recording studios or family arts workshops - which the whole community can enjoy.
The programme, Art in empty spaces, which was announced in April, will run in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Governments scheme Looking After Our Town Centres which will invest £3 million to reinvigorate ailing town centres during the recession.
Art in empty spaces is funded with an additional £500,000 of National Lottery funds available through Arts Council Englands Grants for the arts programme. This extra money will be set aside from the core Grants for the arts funds and used specifically for artistic activity in vacant premises in town centres.
The money is intended to enable artists to connect their work with even more people in fresh and imaginative ways, despite the current tough economic climate. Priority will be given to projects where the activity begins within three months of a grant being awarded.
The role the arts can play in economic regeneration can already be seen across the country, where the innovative use of empty shops is already helping to prevent high street decline.
For example, in Chester, Roam the Rows uses the high street as its setting for the annual Chester Performs festival, which brings a mix of arts events and installations to the historic city centre. Artists take over both empty and occupied shops and public spaces to create new and stimulating experiences for shoppers and passers-by.
In 2008 Chester Performs staged 46 events to more than 15,000 people. Their projects are devised in collaboration with professional and amateur artists, community groups, schools, local businesses and retailers.
Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: The arts offer escape and comfort in tough times and they have the power to play a key role in our recovery from recession.
Art in empty spaces is a wonderful way for artists to connect with even more people in unexpected places and to turn the depressing sight of another empty shop into an encounter with something different.