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Inspiring gallery to transform empty city centre space

An empty space in Plymouth city centre has transformed into a vibrant pop-up gallery showcasing the work of some of the city’s most exciting up-and-coming artists.

The vacant retail unit at 71 Cornwall Street is now the ‘Hidden Art Gallery’ for this week – a gallery run by curator Billy Finch dedicated to promoting the work of Plymouth’s blossoming art scene.

The pop-up gallery will be in place during August and is part of the Meanwhile Use scheme brought to the city by Plymouth Culture and is part of and funded by the Historic England Heritage Action Zone Culture Programme and Interreg’s C-Care programme.

The scheme aims to turn empty spaces in the city centre into vibrant exhibitions, interactive experiences and inspiring installations that celebrate our city and heritage.

Billy is a local artist whose in-demand work has been commissioned across Plymouth. He’s the brains behind Plymouth-based Flying Head Studios and is passionate about promoting the city’s street art and tattoo culture.

The Hidden Art Gallery starts by featuring three local artists:

  • Isis – a newly professional artist who has been studying in Plymouth with a new studio with very unique work.
  • Tom Bird – a landscape artist based at a studio on Plymouth’s Barbican.
  • Cormack Reid – an artist whose work can be spotted across the city including several murals.

Billy said: “I started the gallery to showcase local professional artists and people who want to make a living out of being an artist to the people of Plymouth.

“Last year I heard about the Meanwhile Use scheme through Plymouth Culture, aimed at filling empty spaces in Plymouth and I thought that a gallery space would be an excellent way to fill an empty shop.

“I managed to get in and be selected and I feel really lucky that it’s happened – big thanks to the Meanwhile Use project by Plymouth Culture, come down to see us, we’d love to see you.”

The Meanwhile Use scheme has already seen creative projects ‘take over’ empty spaces in a summer of culture in Plymouth.

They include the opening of the Plymouth Community Climate Centre in New George Street, exhibition spaces such as the Hidden Art Gallery and Sprite Arts, plus the opening of a hub for zero emissions cargo bike deliveries by Devonport-based Community Interest Company Bikespace and courier service Zedify in Old Town Street.

It also includes the transformation of 107 Cornwall Street into a pop-up shop for Vacancy Atlas, specialists at unlocking the potential of empty spaces for use by local businesses, new start ups, community and cultural organisations. Two artists have already taken advantage of the space – Owen Makes and Vince Handford of Memori Prints.

The Meanwhile Use scheme is led by Plymouth Culture in partnership with Plymouth City Council, Plymouth City Centre Company and Vacancy Atlas.

Hannah Harris, CEO of Plymouth Culture, said: “It’s brilliant to see the Meanwhile Use project taking shape this summer in Plymouth and we can’t wait to see some of the compelling work on display at the Hidden Art Gallery.

“We wanted to take advantage of empty spaces and bring cultural experiences that everyone could access to the city centre – it’s inspiring to see that beginning to happen and spark everyday creative encounters.

“It also gives artists and creatives a wonderful platform to show off their talent which they might not have otherwise had the chance to grasp. Not only does it give their creative careers a launchpad but it might also inspire others to do the same.”
The Meanwhile Use scheme is part of the delivery programme for the Interreg-funded C-Care Project and Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone programme.

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