Renowned designer Wayne Hemingway said the creative sector is crucial to the economy after officially opening a new community art studio in Middlesbrough ahead of launching this year’s Festival of Thrift on Teesside.
Hemingway spoke at the official opening of The Start Studio in the premises of a building on Park Road South known to many locals as the former Swedish Mission featuring a colourful glass mosaic on its outside walls.
The building, known as Scandinavian House, has been brought back to life by artist and former primary school art teach Sara Calgie.
Hemingway took time out from his preparations for The Festival of Thrift in Kirkleatham this weekend to open the art studio.
He said: “Sara’s trying to do the right thing by launching something that is creative and important to people’s wellbeing. She’s giving something back to society and deserves to do really well, as well as making a living from it, so I was really happy to give her my support.”
He continued: “Ask most children and they would rather spend their time being creative than just about anything else, whether it be making things or creating art. But unfortunately I think some schools are being a bit lax when it comes to encouraging creative skills within young people.
“Getting creative can lead to a happy career. The industry is the second biggest within our economy and one in nine people in the UK are employed within the creative sector.”
Looking ahead to The SABIC-sponsored Festival of Thrift, which takes place at Kirkleatham, near Redcar, this weekend, he said: “The festival will put more than 150 small businesses in front of 40,000 people, boosting the local economy by somewhere between £750,000 and £1 million.
“It was so important we brought it to Teesside. We’ve been asked to take it to Bristol and so many other places but as long as the community and local businesses continue to support it I can’t see a reason why we’d ever take it anywhere else.
“It brings in lots of visitors from outside the region, who maybe only think of Middlesbrough and Redcar as places where there have been major job losses, but in fact there’s loads of beauty here including the beaches of Saltburn and Redcar.
“But it’s not only about the proven financial return, as great as that is. It’s about the happiness, joy and learning it brings, encouraging people to get creative and try something new.
“It’s a completely uplifting event.
“I hope people who visit the Festival take from it that society doesn’t have to be all about mass-consumerism – that you can have such fun from making things yourself.”
Sara said: “Wayne is able to look at things as a visionary, breathing new life into already good stuff from products, fashion, environments and events.
“Having been involved with Middlesbrough creative initiatives going back several years, and as the co-founder of the Festival of Thrift, he understands that it has a creative beating heart.”
Sara, who lives in Linthorpe, thinks that if we are to safeguard that creativity for the future then it must be protected, nurtured and valued. Her new Community Art Studio will be a space to do just that.
As well as some taught classes, the studio provides an opportunity for people of all ages to visit in open studio time, use the tools, resources and be supported to “clart on”.
She said: “Techniques can be taught but creativity is a tacit skill that is worked out individually, and it is this essential practice that I want to provide for and support.”
There is also space to use as a gallery area, so that children can have their work valued in their own exhibitions.
Having followed Hemingway’s career since her art student days at Berkshire College of Art almost 25 years ago, where he was a visiting lecturer, Sara could not think of anyone more appropriate to introduce the new venture.
As an advocate for social change, she believes Hemingway is the perfect person to champion the ideas she has about promoting arts and creativity in the whole community.
The studio has a strong business model to support the children’s own artwork as well as enhancing the perceived value of art and creativity by the children themselves, their schools and the wider community.
As a Community Interest Company, the new venture has several planned strategies to enable sustainable continued professional development opportunities for arts educators.
This will include teachers, early years practitioners, home school educators, childminders and other emerging groups in the community.