National arts charity celebrates new Perth studios as work begins in Inverness

The construction of a £5.7 million project to create a vibrant home for creative industries in the Highlands got under way this month.

Image credit: Colin Hattersley

Work on the £3.5m Phase 2 of Inverness Creative Academy comes as artists prepare to move into the £4.5m Perth Creative Exchange ahead of its official opening in February.

Both projects involve the regeneration of former schools by Wasps (Workshop and Artists Studio Provision (Scotland) Limited), bringing new creative life to the heart of two Scottish cities.

The Perth Creative Exchange development has involved the transformation of the 1930s St John’s Primary School building, in Stormont Street, to provide 26 studio spaces, 13 creative industry spaces plus many other support facilities.

The project marks a key moment in the expansion of Wasps – a national charity and social enterprise which expects to be providing high-quality affordable studios and workspaces for over 1,000 tenants across Scotland by the end of 2020.

The facility, a partnership with Perth & Kinross Council, will support the area’s economy – enabling artists and makers to build up their businesses in a sector where earning a living can be tough.

In addition to studios, Perth Creative Exchange will provide 13 workspaces for creative businesses, a teaching space, hot-desking area and meeting rooms plus a public café, gallery and project space. It is also home to The Famous Grouse Ideas Centre which is dedicated to incubating creative businesses.

It is hoped Perth Creative Exchange will provide the right infrastructure and support to keep creative people in the area – including University of the Highlands and Islands graduates who often leave the area after completing their course in Perth because of the lack of suitable facilities and employment opportunities.

Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive officer, said: “This really is a landmark moment for us – with the opening of our 20th building in 2020, having Phase 2 of our Inverness project underway and being able to provide high-quality studio and workspace for 1,000 tenants all across the country. 

“Wasps has come a long way since it opened its first studios in Dundee back in the 1970s. We are now supporting Scotland’s creative community in facilities from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway.

“The Creative Exchange facility could make a real difference to Perth, and the surrounding area, providing a much-needed boost to the artistic community while developing the creative economy.

“Wasps is already home to Scotland’s biggest creative community and the largest organisation of our kind in the UK. There is a very long way to go, however. Scotland is rich with creative talent – but the support needed for creatives to flourish is ad hoc. Our mission is to help solve that problem. 

“Far too many creative people find it a struggle to make a living in the parts of Scotland where they want to live and work. Instead of working from garden sheds and kitchen tables, many of them need proper workspaces where they can focus on their work, run classes, meet clients, collaborate with other artists and have access to business support.

“This is underlined by the enthusiasm and uptake of space from artists whenever we open a new building – and the level of support from partners, such as local authorities, when they recognise the social, cultural and economic benefits it can bring for their areas.”

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