Multidisciplinary artist Sam Bell runs Fox Yard Studio and Stowmarket Arts CIC in Stowmarket. Here she explains how a pilot project to revitalise an empty shop window in the town is supporting four artist and creatives this summer
The idea for Fox Yard Studio came to me in 2019. The main fuel for the idea was to have a space where people can feel welcome and free to express their own creativity. I personally think that having a place where people feel like they belong is important – and taking part in creative activities is a great way to explore your own sense of belonging by doing things you love and sharing the experience with others. We run a wide range of different workshops, from beginners’ classes in painting watercolour, acrylic and oils, to lino printing, knitting and crocheting, illustration and even some pottery classes. We’ve also started providing workshops for kids as well which has been so much fun!
I am absolutely thrilled with the way Stowmarket Arts CIC is going and I’m very happy I decided to start a community interest company. It encapsulates everything I wanted to create and offer to the community. Being able to offer creative workshops for free or at a low cost has meant that people who are curious about learning new skills but unable to afford it have a chance to explore their own creativity without breaking the bank. It’s been very well received so far and thanks to the part funding we received from BMSDC, we have been able to offer free workshops for three months now and we’re excited to see what future opportunities there are to allow us to offer more to the community. New plans for future workshops are in the pipeline!
They are so many hidden gems in Stowmarket and lots of creative activities happening. I am a part of the Stowmarket Culture Group, and we are working to create more cultural activities, such as the Jubilant Festival, which connects schools, creative practitioners and local venues! This year it takes place from June 7-16, 2023. There have also been some great art spaces and workshops available throughout the town, to name a few examples: mural painting on the Rec, outdoor exhibitions at the Food Museum, creative wellbeing workshops at Red Gables and of course, our own community exhibitions and workshops in the Old Fox Yard.
I grew up in Bury St Edmunds and more recently discovered Stowmarket a few years ago. About six years ago now, I made the move from busy town life to living in the middle of the countryside. At the time I thought that maybe I was too young to be away from the excitement of being in a busier place, but I can confidently say it was the best decision I ever made. I’ve fallen in love with the Suffolk countryside and have become fascinated with local wildlife, which I regularly use as inspiration for my own artwork. Having Stowmarket nearby has been such a great resource and opportunity to meet lots of kind and friendly people from the local area.
The Old Fox Yard is not only home to Fox Yard Studio and Stowmarket Arts CIC but it’s also home to Modece Architects and Pallet Bar, an arts bar which celebrates local artists as well as local drinks. We also have a beauticians called B.E.Autiful and a Turkish Barbers and are very excited to be welcoming a new Italian café, Passione D’Amore, to the Fox Yard family, which will be opening in June!
We have a wonderful community exhibition on now in Fox Yard Studio inspired by the word: Emergence! This exhibition will be on until May 24. We are currently open 11am-5pm, Wednesday to Saturday (and every other Saturday, 11am-2pm). For updated opening hours, visit our website!
The open studio pilot project aims to utilise some space on the high street for artists to create and display their artwork in. It’s a collaboration with Hypha Studios, Mid Suffolk District Council and Modece Architects, and the four chosen artists – Heath Brown, Ian Moss, Patsy Cane and Esme Podmore – have free use of studio space as well as having the chance to showcase their artwork and run community events.
It’s been so great to see how many creative people there are in the area and to be able to work with Modece Architects to create a space where people can come and enjoy local art as well as local food and drinks! I’ve loved seeing how the Old Fox Yard has evolved over the last few years and I look forward to seeing where our creative adventures in the Yard takes us in the future!
The four artists selected to have free studio and gallery space in Stowmarket over the next six months:
Esme Podmore is an artist from Stowmarket. Her practice uses found and donated objects, things as diverse as potsherds dug up by chance and a bicycle with a specific personal history.
Heath Brown is a fine art photographer and digital media/sound artist whose work explores the idea of the sublime in landscape and environment. Taking the ordinary in East Anglia and transforming it into powerful and thought-provoking imagery.
Ian Moss studied art & design at North Essex School of Art in the mid-80’s, then fine art for a short while at Portsmouth- specialising in sculpture and assemblage.
Patsy Cane is a fluid based artist from Stowmarket, using acrylics on canvas but also on wood, glass and ceramics. She will use this studio to create larger works than she usually makes due to the lack of space.
The pilot project is a collaboration between Mid Suffolk District Council, Stowmarket Arts CIC, Modece Architects and Hypha Studios – a charity matching creatives with empty spaces – and is funded by the Suffolk Growth Town Centre Living with Covid Grant, which supports projects that help revitalise town centres. The shop, previously used by Cancer Research, has been transformed into a free exhibition space downstairs and a studio upstairs for use by creatives looking to engage with the local community and other town centre organisations – without the usual high studio prices.
Featured image of Sam Bell, taken by Gregg Brown