KARST gallery awarded funding for refurbishment

KARST—Plymouth’s largest independent artist-led gallery—has been awarded £270,000 to transform its space into a premier venue for the British Art Show 9.

The grant, from Arts Council England’s Small Grant Capital Funding programme, will enable the refurbishment of KARST’s creative space, the installation of an eco-efficient heating system and full disability access. When completed, the improvements will result in an increase in operational time and programming capacity, attracting more artists and major exhibitions.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to award £270,000 to KARST through our Small Capital Grants funding programme. The funding will equip them with the necessary infrastructure to become a key British Art Show 9 venue, adding another feather to Plymouth’s visual art cap. We are extremely pleased to support this renovation project which will improve KARST’s environmental sustainability, accessibility and resilience and in turn engage more people.”

Work will begin early next year and finish in autumn 2020 with the official public opening of an international exhibition. The British Art Show 9 opens in Plymouth in October 2021 and runs until January 2022.

Nick Buckland OBE, Chair of the KARST Trustees, said “The whole team at KARST are all to be congratulated on this exciting opportunity. It’s the outcome of hard work and determination that will enhance KARST and its growing reputation in Plymouth, nationally and internationally as a first class and leading centre for contemporary visual arts. Our partners in the city, including Plymouth City Council, The Box and LHC Design, have all been very supportive.”

KARST is the region’s largest independent contemporary visual arts gallery and studio space and was granted Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status in 2018. It was the first independent organisation in Plymouth to programme international, cutting-edge contemporary arts and provide affordable artist studio space.

KARST Executive Director Donna Howard says resilience and sustainability are at the heart of this phase of development for KARST adding: “Currently we are having to turn away cultural and commercial opportunities due to the limitations of having no heating and accessibility restrictions. The project will enable the business to be more commercially viable, entrepreneurial and financially resilient.

“It is important that the gallery takes full advantage of our position as a British Art Show venue to attract new and diverse audiences.

“For the first time we will operate as a cultural space that is both physically and visibly accessible to all. We believe culture should be enjoyed by everyone. These improvements will ensure that we remove the physical barriers to participation and are accessible and welcoming for all.”

Donna Howard, KARST Executive Director

KARST was founded to take advantage of the interest created by the British Art Show 7 after it appeared in Plymouth in 2011 and it has taken the gallery just nine years to be selected as a principle venue for British Art Show 9.

Donna Howard says: “KARST has a key strategic role to play within Plymouth. We will continue to work in partnership with key stakeholders to collectively deliver a collaborative and cohesive approach to the cultural offer in the city.

“We are especially looking forward to working with The Box, Plymouth College of Art and the University’s Arts Institute, to attract more investment to the city and plan the strategic growth of contemporary visual art, as we progress towards hosting British Art Show 9 in Autumn 2021.”

The Arts Council’s Small Grant Capital Funding programme is focused on providing organisations with the right facilities to be able to produce and present great work. The benefits provided by the scheme include new and improved buildings which bring benefits to artists, audiences and to the communities where they’re located. This in turn enables organisations to develop resilience and to become more sustainable businesses.

KARST was formed in 2012, as a result of the 2011 British Art Show 7 and has experienced exponential growth and received recognition as an ambitious, cutting edge, independent contemporary arts organisation. It is the region’s largest independent contemporary arts gallery and studio space and was granted Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status in 2018.

The refurbishment will create gallery conditions to host and produce international calibre artists, curators and artworks that can be accessed and experienced by all and increase audience numbers and participation opportunities. The improved studio space will attract and retain the highest-level studio artists and help KARST maintain its leading role in the strategic development of the creative sector in Plymouth.

Phase One of the project is to install the energy-efficient heating system and resolve the accessibility issues. A second phase will address issues such as the better use of natural light, zonal lighting and increased insulation.