Our History

Since its conception in the year 2000, ‘a space’ has come a long way.

Established in Southampton as an organisation ‘by artists for artists’, we aim to support Southampton’s artistic talent with affordable studio spaces, exhibition platforms and professional development opportunities.

After two years of extensive planning and research, In 2002 we opened an artist-led gallery in a converted Victorian shop unit on Old Northam Road. This inaugural exhibition space enabled us to test early ideas, refine a collective vision and gather audiences and support.

Since those early days, ‘a space’ has progressed, growing incrementally and strategically across multiple projects and becoming a registered charity with a regional profile. We continue to take an enterprising approach to delivering our work and have developed a portfolio of innovative projects to achieve our goals; supporting emerging artists and inspiring audiences.

Our focus on developing artist studio spaces has played a key role in growing the region’s affordable studio sector. We now manage the Arches Studios, a hub of visual arts talent that celebrated its 10th birthday in 2015, alongside Tower House, which supports a community of cultural sector organisations and screen based artists.

The Sorting Office offers studios for designer-makers alongside a large versatile hireable space, the Production House. The organisation worked in partnership with Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) for 5 years to develop projects before handing over the management to EBC in September 2017.

To complement these physical spaces we instigated and continue to work with the Studio Providers Network South to give managers from 14 studio projects across Southern Hampshire a networking platform.

In 2004, we opened a second exhibition space to accommodate our growing ambitions and exhibition program. Art Vaults developed from an innovative concept to utilise the medieval vaults underneath Southampton city centre as exhibition and performance spaces. The inaugural Art Vaults season sparked our passion for culturally reanimating forgotten, historic sites; the dynamic combination of arts and heritage continues to influence our exhibition program today.

To further this work, and build on our foundations, we set our sights on converting the Bargate, a historic monument and the gateway to Southampton’s medieval old town. The Bargate Monument Gallery (BMG) opened in 2006, providing new opportunities for artists in the city with an innovative exhibitions programme developing the organisations profile, curatorial skills and audiences.

In 2012 we proactively embarked on our most ambitious project to date, God’s House Tower. This project, which opened in October 2019, will exponentially grow our work along with opportunities for artists and audiences by creating a new, dynamic and distinctive arts and heritage venue.

In 2018 we became an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation and launched a new multi-strand Artist Development Plan to support artists in furthering their practices and careers.

In the future we hope to continue providing studios, support and opportunities for artists in Southampton as well as reaching and engaging with new audiences. We are focused on making the most of every opportunity to keep progressing and providing new and exciting opportunities in the city.