Plans to turn an empty retail unit in a Wigan shopping centre into an artists’ workspace are underway.
Castlefield Gallery will turn the former Marks and Spencer unit in the Grand Arcade into a creative space for artists and the cultural sector to work in.
The project is part of their New Art Spaces programme and aligns with Wigan Council’s wider plan to make arts and culture accessible to all. It will also provide local artists with a dedicated platform to create new pieces.
Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities and culture said: “We’re committed to ensuring our town centres are vibrant places to be and we’re delighted to be able to provide a diverse offer including retail and cultural experiences.
“We are working with Castlefield Gallery to bring arts and culture directly to our residents. It’s great we can combine this ambition with finding a new use for an otherwise empty shopping space and give local artists a space to express their creativity.
“We’re confident that this project will be welcomed by our community in the same way that The Fire Within is, which is another striking cultural space in our town centre utilising previously vacant shopping units.”
Castlefield Gallery runs a number of studio workspaces across the region and is hoping to move artists into their Wigan space next month. While work is ongoing, Wigan Council has commissioned a digital window installation exploring surveillance by artist Nicole Prior.
Visible in the windows of the unit on both Standishgate and in the Grand Arcade, the display called ‘Data Rooms’ is responsive to people walking by and relays images of those in the town centre. It will be on display until 24 December 2020.
Helen Wewiora, the Director and Artistic Director of Castlefield Gallery said:
“At Castlefield Gallery we make new art possible and we work with artists and creatives in Greater Manchester and beyond at all career stages.
“We are delighted to partner with Wigan Council to bring new arts and cultural experiences to the town and thank the council for their collaboration and support.
“Castlefield Gallery Associate artist Nicole Prior has developed an engaging new digital commission, Data Rooms, that invites interaction and successfully animates both facades of New Art Spaces Wigan. We are looking forward to moving artists into the space and being able to nurture the talent of local creatives.
“Having operated our longest standing New Art Spaces in Leigh until 2019, it is fantastic to be back in the borough. Wigan and its neighbouring areas clearly brim with creativity and we are pleased to be able to continue to contribute to the borough’s inspired cultural manifesto ‘The Fire Within’.”
Through 2020-21, the borough’s cultural manifesto, called The Fire Within, will focus on ‘Digital Wigan’, exploring how technology can be used to bring people together, which is even more topical during times of social distancing.
In addition to a new exhibition in The Galleries shopping centre called We Will Always Be Together, the council will also place a large effort to deliver work in the heart of local communities.
Coun Ready added: “The Fire Within is about engaging with residents of all ages so they can discover new things. Although we want to inspire our residents, we know that culture is a driver in social inclusion and has positive benefits on our health and wellbeing, so we’re keen to work with our grass roots communities to ensure that the benefits of The Fire Within are maximised borough-wide.”