Sunday, 15 January 2017

Checking In From The Anatomy Rooms With Jim Ewen!

One of my aims for 2017 is to shine a light on the newly established Anatomy Rooms studios. If you haven't heard of it don't feel bad as its not you're fault. I can remember speaking to studio founder Jim Ewen about 3 or maybe 4 years ago about setting up a new studio space for artists and we had various chats about it but finding a space, funding and gauging the demand for space were all present issues. Fast forward to October 2016 and The Anatomy Rooms are open to the public as part of the Doors Open Day. But the studios had been in operation for about 12 months before this so what was happening during that time?

Firstly the time between our first chats and Jim actually getting keys to the Anatomy Room site was full of planning, negotiations which seemed to last years, proposals, funding applications, building warrants, you name it. The Anatomy Rooms is actually part of Aberdeen University's campus based behind the Council Headquarters at Marischal College. For many years it was an active space where medical students practising medicine would come into contact with cadavers, learning all there is to know about the internal workings of the human body, hence the name. With various changes in campus the classes were shifted to a new site and the anatomy rooms as they stood were left closed for a number of years. That is until Jim found them. 

Fast forward through a successful funding application to the council and receiving a Creative Spaces Award, setting up 'All In Ideas' as a charitable org to manage the project, the completion of negotiations with Aberdeen University, a plethora of paper work, risk assessments, building repairs and finally the keys are in Jim's hand. Obviously there's been a hundred more steps and missteps but that's the basics. During this time Jim and a select group set to work setting up a board of trustees to help establish a solid core for the space, meeting and discussing how to move forward, what the space should be used for, who would be using the spaces and what this would mean in the wider creative sector of Aberdeen.

Having been part of the 26 Collective Studios with Jim previously I know first hand how important direction can be for a creative space and also the kind of limitations a space can put on you, something we constantly had to over come at 26. Thankfully The Anatomy Rooms space poses far less problems other than it being such a huge site. With 5 shared studio rooms, 4 private studio rooms, a project room and events space the challenge was getting enough people in to cover the costs of renting the space. And with a few call outs the rooms quickly began to fill up! Artist's from across the board took up residence from recent graduates, textile makers, fine painters, contemporary artists to research students from Aberdeen Uni and a subsidary of Shmu FM. So a year was spent getting people into rooms and giving them time to find their feet and get established. 

The space has played host to some small music industry related events and been used for a public discussion session at the Look Again festival as well. The Doors Open Day gave the general public a chance to see whats been going on first hand and it was pretty exciting to see the vast range of spaces and artists in them, with work on the walls and corridors along with the usual stuff you'd expect to find in a working arts space. In the evening I got to spin some records for the first time in ages and transformed the main room into a mini arty party hub with a few friends helping out. I filmed during the day and night to try and capture a bit of the atmosphere and should have some video evidence of how cool the spaces are ready for viewing next week. 

So whats next? A new membership programme has been launched, inviting creatives to sign up for a newly build workshop space where they will have access to equipment, a workshop and some expertise from a veteran maker in the form of Jim. More partnered events will be taking place including some film industry work shops from the newest studio residents Crow House,a new local film making start up who aim to help foster emerging film making talent in the North East. December saw the launch of a new gallery space with debut show by studio resident Lauren Milton kicking things off nicely with more studio resident shows planned and an open call for future shows. Jim himself hasn't really stopped since setting the ball rolling but has been slowly chipping away at his own practice, producing really incredible collage and painted works on wood along with his distinctive pencil mountainscapes continuing the themes and ideas he started with back in the 26 days. We joked about how for all the time he's spent in the new studio space hes probably only put a month or so into working on his own ideas.  With all the time and effort he's put into making The Anatomy Rooms a reality I'd say he deserves a well earned break.    

Alas, there's more work to be done still. Plans are a foot to take on more space and All In Ideas will be branching out to partner up with some other city orgs to work on some exciting new projects. That's about all I can say on that for now but having seen what's been achieved so far I have high hopes for 2017 being a year that blows the doors off for culture in the city, for the general public but also for people like Jim and a few others who have been working for a long time to make Aberdeen the creative and arty hub it should be. I'll be delving deeper into the goings on of the studio's and will hopefully have some interesting profiles of the makers and shakers currently in the studio along with info about up coming events and parties so watch this space and be sure to follow The Anatomy Rooms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also keep a bit more up to date with my going's on via the facebook page where ill be trying to share more info about up coming events across the city in a more immediate fashion. 

Big love to Jim and everyone who's made The Anatomy Rooms such a great space so far and here's to some exciting projects to come. You can check out some snaps of Jim and his current studio / office below, Studio #1 indeed!