East Street Arts, St Mary's Lane, Leeds, LS9 7EH – Visit Now
East Street Arts in Leeds showcases of parts of the city that many people don’t even know exist.
So, you live in a city dotted with disused spaces. How do you rescue them? Back in 1993, Karen Watson and Jon Wakeman – the founders of East Street Arts – came up with a solution. They set up a new, contemporary arts organisation that inhabited these buildings, making creative and innovative use of them before moving on. Over eleven years East Street Arts has been a growing concern, operating (by definition) from the underbelly of the city’s art scene. The idea was that it would emulate the traditional format of the artist-led space, whilst providing professional development opportunities and studio provision for artists active in the city.
East Street Arts invites visitors to participate & engage with artists on an entirely different level
Today, East Street has expanded to become a nationally active collaborator, advisor and supporter to hundreds of emerging artists. The heart of their activity, however, is still centred in Leeds. There, they now have three permanent studio complexes: Patrick Studios in Mabgate, Barkston House in Holbeck and Union 105 in Chapeltown. Through these hubs, East Street boasts a full programme of artist led exhibitions, residencies, workshops, events and community classes, inviting visitors to participate and engage with artists on an entirely different level to the traditional gallery.
It’s a unique organisation that stays restless, constantly seeking out and developing possible opportunities. A recent addition to their portfolio is the responsibility for The Reliance bar’s exhibition programme, drawing from the pool of emerging talent that is East Street’s artist membership. Another more ambitious development at Barkston House boasts the only dedicated ceramics facility in Leeds, soon to host classes for those looking to develop or learn new skills.
All of this varied and engaging activity culminates in the annual Open Studios in October, when East Street fling open their doors for all to see the full extent of their activity. Acting as a facilitator for a dialogue between artists and their audience, East Street encourages you to not just to look, but to participate and engage with artists and their practice. Whether you know the city well, or not at all, East Street can introduce you to a part of Leeds that many don’t even know exists.