Nicholas Serota Opens Ocean Studios Plymouth’s £4.2 Million Studio Development

Plymouth’s £4.2 million Ocean Studios, artistic development within 60,000 ft Grade I listed, former naval building, was officially launched yesterday (Thursday 30th July) by Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate, and Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council.  

Serota highlighted the fact that, “In the modern world, the creative industries are an increasingly important part of our economy, growing at 5%, twice as fast as the economy as a whole,” saying that Ocean Studios represents a “critical step in the regeneration of Plymouth.”  He then declared the new contemporary art gallery, 33 artist and designer-makers studio spaces and the open working space for over 70 additional artists officially open. 

The inaugural exhibition, entitled A taste of things to come will be open to the public, seven days a week, from 4th August, set within the stunning glassed 1,906 m2 Ocean Studios gallery space. A taste of things to come includes a new piece by Richard Deacon, Bronze Skin, as well as key pieces by Bill Woodrow, Mary Kelly, Hew Locke, Gillian Wearing and Grayson Perry, all contemporary artists of critical acclaim.

The £4.2 million Ocean Studios development, within the imposing Royal William Yard, has been funded in the main by ERDF, Plymouth City Council, Growing Places Fund and English Heritage, all of whom have been working together with the founding directors, Leigh Mason and Jennifer Jayarajah, to ensure that the project became a reality. 

Sir Nicholas Serota was recently named the world’s most powerful person in contemporary art, in ArtReview’s annual 100 Power List, and he commented, “ In Plymouth the University and the Art School both play a vital part in the life of the community. The provision of 30 studios and exhibition space at the Royal William Yard will help to ensure that artists are attracted to and stay in the city.”

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Tudor Evans said, “Today is a significant milestone on the journey for this city within its role as a centre for contemporary art, not only in the South West, but in the UK.  Ocean Studios is a staggering space and an amazing development for the city and for the sector. For too long, institutions such as Plymouth College of Arts and Plymouth University have produced and mentored exceptional artists and creators who have had to move away to find adequate and affordable studio space so we couldn’t be more ready for this development.”

Cllr Evans continued, “Ocean Studios now provides this much-needed space with a stack of added benefits for this creative talent pool and it’s just brilliant to see over 80 artists already here, hard at work, producing and selling work from this inspirational location.”

Co-Founder, Jennifer Jayarajah, realised the need for a dedicated artist workspace whilst studying for an MA in Entrepreneurship in Creative Practice at Plymouth College of Art. Jen developed the initial thinking in her dissertation for the course and as she started to lobby for the concept to become a reality, she joined up with Leigh Mason, a colleague on the same course.  

Over the past four years, the dogged determination of both women has ensured that Ocean Studios has indeed been realised and is now set to drive the development of over 100 resident and associate artists, the creative economy of the city and a new awareness and exposure to the contemporary arts for people across Plymouth and the South West via Ocean Studios’ Short Course and Outreach programmes. 

Jen Jayarajah says, “It has been a very long and challenging road to travel, but through sheer dedication and a lot of hard work from a lot of people, we are finally here.  It’s obviously an emotional day for Leigh Mason and I in many ways, and it makes us so happy to see our residents all settled within their studios and already creating work, and a new network that will deliver so much for themselves and for the city and its contemporary arts scene.  Seeing work by the UK’s top contemporary artists cited within our gallery space is also hugely rewarding and we are so looking forward to opening the doors to the public and witnessing their reactions.”

Co-Director, Leigh Mason says, “Of course, this is an immensely exciting time as we reveal Ocean Studios to the world. There’s a palpable energy and buzz already in the air as this vital new community, within this imposing space, gets to work together.”  

Of A taste of things to come, Leigh says, “This first show allows us to introduce what we’ll be doing here at Ocean Studios, and how we’ll be navigating our own course with our curation and gallery space. We are steadfast in our resolve that we will not be guided by fashion or contemporary art trends, instead continually putting audiences right at the heart of our Ocean Studios curatorial conversation. We are here to celebrate the diverse nature of this new artistic community and its location in the city of Plymouth, and everything that it stands for, and to bring the very best of UK and international contemporary art to our stunning new home.”

Further pieces within A taste of things to come include; Hew Locke’s Medusa, The Garden by English photographer and video artist, Gillian Wearing, Post-Partum Document, a six-year exploration of the mother-child relationship by Mary Kelly, Bill Woodrow’s Pillarbox Invigilator BW577 and Grayson Perry’s Map of Nowhere. 

Over 30 Ocean Studios residents are already at work within studios of various sizes across the property and Ocean Studios also now offers opportunities for associate membership.  There will also be a range of short course options, open to the public, which will offer access to highly reputable and established artistic facilitators across the whole spectrum of the creative field. 

There are many alternative opportunities to get involved in Ocean Studios, through volunteering, corporate sponsorship, teaching and mentoring or hot desking. To find out more, see the website here


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