New arts base enhances Croydon’s “edgy city feel”

A new pop-up base for art and culture is further proof of Croydon’s “edgy city feel” and its appeal to the creative industries.

Croydon Council, local visual arts organisation TURF, RISE Gallery and Kingston University have joined together to form Croydon Art Store.

Consisting of a gallery, studios for local artists and space for research and outreach projects, the store is based in the Whitgift Centre.

Professor Louis Nixon, Associate Dean Research and Enterprise at the University’s Kingston School of Art, approached Croydon council with the idea for the borough to host a biennale – a large scale international contemporary art exhibition held every two years.

He said: “The council is very keen that art and culture are part of the ongoing regeneration. This resonates with Kingston School of Art’s focus on bringing art and design into people’s everyday lives. As a University we also want to demonstrate the impact of our research and for it to have a positive effect on society.”

Professor Nixon put together a team from Kingston School of Art’s Contemporary Art Research Centre, including Turner Prize winning artist Elizabeth Price and Mike Nelson who represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2011, setting up base at the Whitgift Centre.

In addition, he has identified a shift to the south following the gentrification of East London, as artists search for more affordable studio spaces within reach of the city centre.

“Central London has become harder and harder for young creatives to get a foothold in because of the cost of studios and space,” he said.

He added: “As art and culture has been centralised, the audience has increasingly moved out to the edges of the city. We want, as creative people, something on our doorsteps. I don’t want to have to travel for an hour on the train to a central London gallery – I want to see the latest contemporary practice on my doorstep.

“Croydon has an edgy city feel about it, it’s dynamic, exciting and doesn’t feel suburban. The Art Store and the proposed biennale are an opportunity to nurture new talent and the next generation of artists.”

Graphic design students James Gowdy and Anne Danao have already exhibited their work on a project linked to the Croydon biennale at the store. They produced maps designed to show the diversity of Croydon’s art, shopping, food and nightlife to help new visitors navigate the borough.

“When we first visited Croydon we didn’t really know where to go,” said 31-year-old James from Ealing. “As an outsider it can be disorientating and confusing, we wanted to address that problem and allow people to make the most of their visit – especially during the biennale.”

Croydon is bidding to be the first London Borough of Culture in a competition run by the Mayor of London’s office. The biennale is proposed to launch in 2019 as part of the events programme.