I set up Bow Arts 25 years ago when I was a young sculptor trying to find affordable studio space for myself and other artists in a similar position. From the start, I wanted Bow Arts to be different and affordable space that celebrated talent, ambition and drive, combined with professional support dedicated to promoting our skills in the community. I wanted a place that would help us earn a living and do more than just survive.
It took years to grow the organisation from its modest beginnings into something that now attracts the professional and dedicated staff you all know. It also took years to build the relationships and opportunities that attract so many talented young artists, designers and makers to our doors.
Bow Arts’ early pragmatic approach may have been my idea but it was soon superseded by the community it created. This community works because of our combined effort and it is through mutual support that we achieve our ambitions.
We find ourselves now in extraordinary times of uncertainty and anxiety. I am hearing so many stories from our artist community, people worried about their creative futures, feeling that the time and effort they have invested is now in jeopardy.
We recognise that many of you have been put into a difficult position by the chancellor’s long awaited announcement and that this support does not actually cover your core studio costs. For these reasons, you need to know that we are working very hard on your behalf to find alternative solutions.
We do not own any of our buildings, unlike many other studio providers, and therefore depend on rental income to pay the rents to our landlords. We are working hard to secure rent holidays and we are seeking loans and grant support from major bodies, such as the Arts Council, to try and make this possible. We will keep you updated on progress. Meanwhile our costs are ongoing and we, therefore, may have to face the fact that a long-term collapse in our rental income could threaten our existence.
For the last 25 years, we have provided low cost space, training, work and promotional opportunities and, as a charity, we pass on all these benefits to you our artists. This means that even before the crisis our margins were very low and resources stretched. We do a lot with very little.
If the trust becomes insolvent all our studios spaces will be lost, people will lose their jobs, and thousands of young people across east London will lose the benefits gained from our education programmes.
I want everyone to know that we are doing a huge amount to try to find answers and that for some this will not feel fast or certain enough. Above all, I am convinced that we need to work together as a community so that the collective voice of artists can be heard.
We greatly value our artist community and hope you will help us work together to support one another and to survive.
Founder and Chief Executive