In March 2019 Kaleider will launch Kaleider Studios, a new home for us and our Resident community to make our work in.
In January 2016 Kaleider launched a “studio”. It was a humble space. We took on the floor above our small office in central Exeter. When I say floor, it was one room, albeit a fairly big one, that had been used by one person as an office. We stripped it out, painted Kaleider on the wall in a C4 ident homage, made some massive tables and called it a studio.
We had already started inviting artists, academics and scientists from the Met Office to share our space with us in the belief that if we huddled we’d build some relationships and ultimately things would happen that we couldn’t have foreseen. We also wanted to use whatever we had in our gift to support those with energy and ambition beyond their means to do something meaningful in the world. From January 2016 we built a community of Residents who have become the core of our global network from which we draw strength, solidarity, inspiration, friendship, knowledge and collaboration in spades.
Fast forward to 2017 and we realised that, if the level of activity that we were planning came off, we were going to need a bigger space. And our studio at Bathurst House was up a flight of stairs with no lift. We were determined to have a more accessible home into which we could invite anybody, whatever their accessibility requirements.
We had a look into a couple of spaces. We had noticed that since the esteemed visual art organisation Spacex had moved out of 45 Preston Street the ground floor had been rented out adhoc, and we wondered if a longer term rent of that downstairs space would work for us.
We met the four landlords who had been holding the space in trust for Spacex for many years, and now that the gallery had closed down were keen to talk to us. We asked what the availability of the downstairs was – they offered us the whole building. It was a much bigger project than we had imagined we would take on, but over the next twelve months, and in close conversation with them and our board, we worked through how that could happen.
Many people will have visited Spacex over the years, as a contemporary art gallery. Few will have seen the upper two floors. They have been rough studios for artists for many years and have been a quiet home to many of Exeter’s established visual artists in that time. As such the fabric of the building has had little investment in it for a very long time, no investment at all on the upper floors.
In order to take it on and make the upper floors usable we had to make the building safe. In order to refurbish, even in a modest way, we had to ask for vacant possession of the building. It is an uncomfortable truth that this meant asking artists to leave their studios, which they agreed to with great dignity. And we recognise that the cost of a new direction for this building is not without pain for some, for which I apologise.
So the negotiations have been complex. To give you some idea of the state of the building, in August 2018 the upper two floors were designated “derelict”. This in turn meant we couldn’t take out a lease on the building. So our lawyers worked together to secure a license whilst we carry out the necessary building work to make the building safe. Once the building has passed its relevant inspections we will take out a lease.
I can only begin to describe the amount of time and energy put in on all sides, particularly by Kaleider’s General Manager, Peter Vanderford, and Stuart Robb from our Board. Our staff team has had to move around temporary office spaces, since leaving Bathurst House, too. And all this whilst internationally touring 3 works and kicking off SWCTN. University of Exeter’s Drama department were super-kind and gave us a home over the summer, where we were able to continue to offer our residents some space too. And Stuart is generously hosting us at 1 Barnfield Crescent until January.
So what’s our vision for this building?
Whilst being mindful that it’s all too easy for buildings to become the thing, we recognise that this building is an important cultural asset to Exeter and is a wonderful opportunity for Kaleider. It is undoubtedly a beautiful building.
Spacex had a long and prestigious life and we will endeavour to honour its integrity in all we do. But we will not open 45 Preston Street as a gallery space. Kaleider Studios, as the building will be called, will be a space of collaboration and support for Kaleider to make alongside the network of which it is part and takes a responsibility to nurture.
The ground floor will be a collaboration space.
To the left, as you enter the building, will be a co-work space, where Kaleider and our Resident community will work day to day.
To the right will be a welcome space, and a small room in the basement will act as a meeting room and quiet working space. We will also use the basement for some storage.
To the back of the building, in a glass roofed area, we plan to build a DIY café for the Residents and visitors – a space where people can meet, talk, drink tea and coffee, and eat together.
What was the main gallery space will gain huge wooden shutters and will be used for big makes, and to rent out as events space. The possibilities for this space are really exciting, but we are holding those possibilities open as wide as we can for as long as we can. We – or more likely others, will be able to use this space at weekends and evenings too.
The idea is that the café and the events space can be rented out as conferencing/workshop space, whilst not disrupting the studio community too much.
There is a tiny outdoor space. Our Residents have already cleared it and we have grand plans for a tardis like garden and outdoor meeting space (It’s tiny, but it’s fresh air!)
The First Floor
We have opened up the central corridor on the first floor to give access to four studios and make space for a small kitchenette at one end and a light meeting space at the other. A new start-up film company, grown out of our Resident community, Preston Street Films, will take two studios. Whilst on the other side of the building Kaleider will retain two studios, one for meetings, co-working and renting out for others to meet, and one as a making space. We have no investment for the making space yet, but we’re super-excited to grow our fabrication capacity, albeit in a modest way to start with.
We are installing toilets on the first floor, and with our hearts full of hope for the investment needed for a lift in future years, one will be an accessible toilet, albeit, for the time being, up a flight of stairs.
On the top floor
We are making four studios and a meeting room.
These we plan to rent out commercially. There is already quite a bit of interest in these four studios, and it’s our hope that we will be able to curate the occupancies of these studios so that they compliment the Kaleider Network. As with all builds, especially ones in very old buildings, two thirds of the work is known, and the other third just pops up, with inevitable surprise.
We had hoped to have finished the building work by mid-December, but, although we’re aiming for some of the building to be useable for the core team by January, we imagine we will be fully up and running by mid March. So we’re planning a house warming, which we’re tentatively calling Mikro Fest – a celebration of the Kaleider community, the things we all make, and our new home at Kaleider Studios. It will be on 15th and 16th of March, so pop it in your diaries and that’ll put an appropriate amount of pressure on us to get across the line by then!
If you want to read more about Kaleider then you can download our plan for the coming years here.
To contact us please drop us a line here.