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Studio Review Process

Studio Review Process

Spike Island artists' studios. Photograph by Yiannis Katsaris

In June 2019, Spike Island’s Director and Board of Trustees introduced a new approach to the management of our 70 artists’ studios, in order to ensure a fair system for everyone.

As part of the ongoing Studio Review Process we have:

  • Simplified the monitoring requirements for studio holders;
  • Introduced five-year leases in place of one-year leases;
  • Initiated panel reviews for all existing and future studio holders every five years on an ongoing basis

This follows on from extensive consultation with studio holders, studio representatives (nominated by studio holders), the Directors and the Board of Trustees, initiated in 2016 and finalised in 2019.

There have been two review panels to date, on 22 October 2019 and 28 January 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all further reviews were postponed for 6 months, restarting in October 2020.

Aims

Our primary aim with the Studio Review Process is to ensure a fair, equal and transparent system that aligns with our organisational vision and mission, as well as the principles of our key funders around access, diversity and equal opportunities.

We have hundreds of artists applying for subsidised studio spaces each year, who are already subject to an application process. The new Studio Review Process introduces a similar process for existing studio holders. It is not designed to remove artists who have enjoyed long-term tenancies, but to open up the process to ensure greater transparency and fairness in how studio spaces are allocated.

As one of few subsidised studio providers in Bristol, we take our responsibility to sustain and protect these valuable workspaces for local artists incredibly seriously. We know that many artists struggle to access affordable space, and so our studios need to be dynamic, inclusive and accessible. This is why we have taken the time to reflect upon and revise our own processes, to ensure equality of opportunity for the wider artistic community.

As a registered charity, regulated by the Charity Commission and in receipt of public funding from Arts Council England and Bristol City Council, we believe it is our duty to support a broad range of artists across our city and region, not just those that already occupy our studios.

The process

Studio reviews are conducted quarterly by an expert panel to ensure a fair and objective assessment. The panel comprises two studio holders, two members of the Spike Island staff team and two independent advisors. Twelve studio holders are selected for review at random (from a hat) each year (except those with existing five-year leases, who can request a review up to six months before their tenancies are due to expire) and the makeup of the panel changes at least every three years.

Through our consultation, we have designed a straightforward process that asks studio holders to respond to five key questions. They should:

  1. Introduce and provide documentation of their practice
  2. Describe their recent work and future plans
  3. Explain their critical engagement with contemporary art
  4. Demonstrate what they gain from having a studio at Spike Island
  5. Evidence what they contribute to our community

These questions can be answered through either a written response or a studio visit, depending on preference. They are also in line with the questions we already ask new applicants.

Studio holders whose reviews are successful are offered a new five-year lease. Those whose reviews are unsuccessful are asked to vacate their studios with three months’ notice, ending their lease arrangement so that their workspaces can be offered to other artists. In this situation, if a studio holder believes they have been subject to an unfair process, they are able to appeal to Spike Island’s Board of Trustees in writing.

We understand that this is a new process and that, particularly for some of our longer-standing tenants, it may be more difficult to accept, but we wholeheartedly believe it is the right approach for the long-term benefit of our artistic community. We are committed to our principles of creating a fair, equal and transparent system that ensures Spike Island is accessible to all.

Please note that in order to respect data protection and confidentiality, we are unable to comment on any individual studio holder’s reviews.

About Spike Island

Spike Island is one of Europe’s largest studio complexes. We are home to more than 70 artists, 35 creative businesses, 150 Associates members, and hundreds of MA/BA Fine Art students from UWE Bristol. Our community is built to support artists to develop their careers, gain new knowledge, and grow their networks.