A community led initiative in Chester is on a mission – to give the city centre a cultural boost by converting vacant shop units into gallery spaces for local artists.
Place for the Arts in Chester (PACh) has just opened the doors to its first ‘art hub’ on Bridge Street – PLACE 1 – and the team behind the newly-formed collective has plans to open a second space later this month with more to follow.
Local businesses and organisations including Aaron & Partners, ChesterBID, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), Grosvenor Insurance, kenneymoore, WLGT, Grosvenor Estate, CWaC and Chester Growth Partnership are all supporting the new not-for-profit, Community Interest Company, which is collaborating with local landlords to bring the scheme to life.
The ‘pop-up’ exhibition and studio spaces are designed to make Chester a more exciting and vibrant place for tourists and residents, offering more reasons for people to visit the city centre and support the local economy. The shops sell a broad variety of original art, jewellery, ceramics, photographs, sculptures and original art prints.
Each shop will be managed through the Chester Art Centre but run by the artists themselves. Six local artists are involved in PLACE 1 including Brigitte Watkinson, Bryn Sutcliffe, James Jolley, Liz Taylor, Sue Walsh and Anastasia Tilston, who will all spend time in the store to talk to visitors about their work.
Mike Garratt, Chair of PACh said: “Our group is made up of local business people all with an interest in art and a passion to make a difference to the city of Chester.
“Our city is not alone in facing the unprecedented challenges of a rapidly changing economy, exacerbated by the current pandemic, which is leading to an increase in vacant properties in the city centre.
“In order to move forward and thrive, it will be important for Chester to build upon its strategic strengths; its history and architecture, tourism, the University and its community.
“As a collective, we believe that the arts can make a significant contribution to that, both culturally and economically, and that’s why we’ve come together through PACh to combine our expertise and efforts.
“PLACE 1 is just the beginning. We’ve got bold ambitions to deliver even more units in the months ahead and we’re encouraging as many people as possible to join this movement.”
PACh supports the efforts of the Visual Arts Forum, which has been formed by CWaC, and the efforts of the University of Chester to promote Chester as a ‘home’ for young artists enrolled on its courses.
The group is also engaging with Chester residents through the Chester Residents Association Group (CRAG), as well as the Cheshire Artists Network and Chester Heritage Action Zone on the revitalisation of Chester’s Rows.
Joseph Fletcher-Hunt at Aaron & Partners, which has provided legal support on the project, added: “There’s a huge collective effort going into this scheme with city-wide support, which has been fantastic to see.
“We’re thrilled to be involved in PACh because a strong city centre economy is important to all of our futures and makes Chester a more attractive and interesting place to work in and to visit.
“The landlords we’re working with have been very supportive of the initiative, with short term, zero rent leases agreed in return for their premises being well looked after and available for re-letting with the minimum of notice.
“We’re working hard and supporting the group to make sure even more units can be opened as soon as possible.”
More details about PACh as well as store opening times can be found at: www.placeforart.co.uk, where you can also follow the group’s news and sign up for our newsletters and other information. Donations are also welcome as well as new collaborations with local artists, local businesses and entrepreneurs.
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