How to set up an artist-led space

How to set up an artist-led space Ruth Spencer, Shedding light, 2004

Are you an artist wanting to set up your own space for exhibitions and projects? Here's a handy guide from Artquest to help get you started

Artist-run spaces can be useful for professional artists to expand their careers, make new networks, or simply to organise exhibitions for themselves and their friends.

Before you begin it is important to consider the responsibilities and time involved in setting up and running an artist-led space. Marketing, administration, perhaps a website and negotiating with landlords takes up as much – or more – time than putting together a show.

Sometimes a one-off exhibition or project is desired, making the process of setting up a space shorter but no less complex or intense. You may consider collaborating with other artists to share the workload; it is a good idea to have a written agreement stating each person’s responsibilities before you start. For a smaller or one-off project, or in the initial stages of many artist-led spaces, a simple written agreement between collaborators is often enough.

Later on, however, a more formal structure may be appropriate, and there is information about the different types of organisation on this website as well as on the Charity Commission website about these types of collaborations. Some forms of organisation will preclude the need to pay business rates, but getting charitable status is a lengthy and potentially expensive process. Community Interest Companies are an easier structure to set up, and if you are considering charitable status you may consider this instead.

There are also a number of legal considerations when opening any space into which members of the public are invited.

Public liability insurance will help protect you from legal claims should there be an injury or accident. You can get Public Liability Insurance with us for FREE with Network Associate Membership.

Contracts or letters of agreement are vital to avoid misunderstandings and later legal costs. Prevention is easier – and cheaper – than potentially very costly litigation. Sample contracts for exhibiting artists, sales, property, loans and commissions can be found in the Artlaw section of the Artquest website.

For further advice on the process of setting up artist-led studios listen to artist Mark Nader talk to SEE how himself and a group of graduates funded and keep on supporting Collective Studios in South London.

Interested in finding out more about setting up an artist-led space? We help our members find spaces through Vacant Space.

Published June, 2015

How to set up an artist-led space by Artquest is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0