And so it begins…on the eve of opening The Art Cohort at 13 Chelsea Rd in Bath I’m reflecting on the place this new artspace will have in the artistic life of the city of Bath. It has been a treat being in the space over the last two weeks while we have been fitting out…transforming the inside from carpeted office space to sleek elegant exhibition space and hopefully inviting learning space…so many people have popped in to see what’s going on (local residents, artists, neighbours, friends), enquire about what we’re doing and what the plans for what the space will become, and express interest and delight in a dedicated arts place coming into this vibrant residential area.
Of course many in the area know (but many also do not know) that the Bath School of Art & Design will open in the former Herman Miller building (a mere 3 minute walk away from The Art Cohort) next week on 7th October 2019 bringing an influx of an artistic community of students and academics to this part of Bath. To give some context for those of you reading who may not be familiar with the city of Bath or this part of Bath, Chelsea Road is a small shopping street in a residential area of Bath to the west of the centre of the city. It’s a vibrant place, with 3 cafes, independent shops, a couple of gift shops and an utterly charming greengrocers. It’s about to get a heck of a lot more vibrant once the students arrive….I’m looking forward to observing this change and how the culture and laid back independent ethos currently in Chelsea Road thrives or survives? Interestingly, I’ve been talking to an artist about how we might document the current culture of the street before the shift happens….more on that another time.
But this movement of the most significant Arts institution in Bath to the riverside and Locksbrook area almost certainly marks a turning point in the artistic life in Bath. Bath is a grand, beautiful and weightily historic place…small in size but huge in historical resonance. The grand architectural Crescents, the much narrated nostalgia of Georgian social life and the great standing and tourist appeal of this aesthetically wonderful city is suffocating for an art ‘scene’ to happen. Spaces and places for Art in Bath are limited, the ones that exist are pretty hidden and compared to our geographically close neighbour, Bristol, whose art scene is prominent, edgy, gritty and vibrant, we’re lacking much punch.
But is that changing? I very much hope so…and The Art Cohort represents a little step in that change. We’re deliberately there at the vanguard of the shift of Art out of central Bath…away from the historical buildings that suffocate a more contemporary narrative, embracing the light industrial landscape of the Locksbrook area and reimagining creative thinking in this city.