A group of artists are transforming a disused Paisley building into an art space and community hub.

Sculptors Laura Aldridge, Nick Evans and James Rigler are currently developing a vacant former Renfrewshire Council office building Craigielea House in Ferguslie Park.

The former social work building was leased for 20 years last summer, after the trio failed to find a premises in Glasgow.

Their ambition is to create a new studio facility and model of artistic practice where the community has access to arts and new ways of working can be developed between professional artists and the wider community.

The artists had been having discussions about the difficulties for artists in feeling shut-off from the outside world in warehouse-style studios and the lack of studio space security – which was further compounded by the pandemic.

The Herald: Sculptors Laura Aldridge, Nick Evans and James Rigler Sculptors Laura Aldridge, Nick Evans and James Rigler (Image: Sculpture House Collective)

Ms Aldridge said: "We thought – what if there could be an alternative model for artists interested in socially engaged practice where they had steady studios and space security and could be useful and engaged with the community around them?”

The artists were able to take The Sculpture House forward through an innovative collaboration with Renfrewshire Council and its Future Paisley programme, which aims to use the power of arts, heritage and culture to impact social and economic change. The unique lease agreement between the parties sees the artists pay studio rental on an in-kind basis by offering creative activities to locals and maintaining the building that the community can then use.

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Cultural Lead officer for Future Paisley, Katie Nicoll said: “The ambition is to transform Craigielea House into a community asset that delivers accessible creative activities for the community while being a sustainable base for artists to thrive in Renfrewshire.

"This aligns with Future Paisley’s ambitions to make this an attractive place for artists to work and increase opportunities for the community to engage and participate in cultural activities.

“The unique collaboration between Sculpture House and the council is working towards developing a sustainable and resilient creative economy in Renfrewshire, which can serve as an example to inform and inspire other like-minded projects nationally and internationally.” 

There are currently eight artists with a permanent space at the new Sculpture House.

The Herald: Laura AldridgeLaura Aldridge (Image: Sculpture House Collective)

Chair of Ferguslie Community Council, Terry McTernan, said: “It’s important for the community to have access to creative spaces. Given the impact on mental health during the pandemic, many people are looking for connection, to understand they’re not alone. Therapeutic art seems to be an effective way of addressing this and it’s becoming a recurring theme in our community.

“There has been a genuine appetite from the artists for this to be community-led through their engagement with the Pals of the Privies young adventurers’ group, the community involvement in working on the dye garden, a community wide open day and working with the local schools and nurseries. They’re managing to tear down barriers without even knowing it and it’s great to see the community all come together and get behind it.”

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Local resident Liz Simpson has lived in Ferguslie Park for more than 60 years. She has mobility issues and has found it difficult to go far beyond her doorstep but has been building relationships with her new neighbours providing them with plants and planters and even helping out with some gardening. She’s such a frequent visitor she even has her own mug in the kitchen.

When asked what she thought about Sculpture House she said: “It’s great to see the building looking better and I like to come over the road and have a chat with them – they’re really welcoming. I’ve enjoyed helping with some of the planting they’ve been doing too.”