Setting up an organisation
Before you begin it is important to consider the responsibilities and time involved in setting up and running an artist-led space (or indeed any other kind of studio, organisation or initiative). Marketing, administration, perhaps a website and negotiating with landlords takes up as much – or more – time than putting together a show.
Sometimes a one-off exhibition or project is desired, making the process of setting up a space shorter but no less complex or intense. You may consider collaborating with other artists to share the workload; it is a good idea to have a written agreement stating each person’s responsibilities before you start. For a smaller or one-off project, or in the initial stages of many artist-led spaces, a simple written agreement between collaborators is often enough. Later on, however, a more formal structure may be appropriate, and there is information about the different types of organisation on this website as well as on the Charity Commission website about these types of collaborations. Some forms of organisation will preclude the need to pay business rates, but getting charitable status is a lengthy and potentially expensive process. Community Interest Companies are an easier structure to set up, and if you are considering charitable status you may consider this instead.
There are also a number of legal considerations when opening any space into which members of the public are invited.
Public liability insurance will help protect you from legal claims should there be an injury or accident, and contracts or letters of agreement are vital to avoid misunderstandings and later legal costs. Prevention is easier – and cheaper – than potentially very costly litigation. Sample contracts for exhibiting artists, sales, property, loans and commissions can be found in Artlaw by art legal specialist Henry Lydiate. The Society for All Artists provides insurance for exhibitions for its members and public liability insurance for Gold members. a-n provides artwork and public liability insurance to subscribers of their AiR scheme.
For further advice on the process of setting up artist-led studios listen to artist Mark Nader talk to SEE how himself and a group of graduates funded and keep on supporting Collective Studios in South London.