Live/Work/Where? New Models for Artists

Flax Art Studios and Researcher Jane Morrow invite you to an online event which features artists, researchers and studio organisations from across the UK and Ireland who are working at the intersections of live/work spaces, artist-led community housing and long-term residencies.

This event is intended to spark dialogue amongst the arts and education sectors, developers, funders and local authorities which will lead to a pilot live/work space being developed in Belfast.

There is currently no such provision in the city; indicative of a broader crisis facing the artists’ studio sector as a result of short-term tenancies and rampant gentrification. A number of currently developing contexts – not least reflections around post-Covid-19 city centre usage, a strategic emphasis placed on increasing the city centre residential population, and the development of city centre university campuses – offer opportunities to radically reshape our living and working environments in the near future.

This event will offer an introduction to models which deliver significant social benefits such as city centre animation and embedded community engagement, as well as opportunities for artists who find current studio availability, costs or access prohibitive. We will also discuss the challenges around these kinds of projects, such as building and land-use regulations and failures to enforce the Percent for Art scheme.


    • 2PM – 2.10PM WELCOME

Introduction from Gail Prentice and Jane Morrow

    • 2.10PM – 2.30PM ARE WE LIVING IN A MODEL?

Helen Carey, Director, Fire Station Artists’ Studios (Dublin)

    • 2.30PM – 2.50PM ARTIST-LED HOUSING

Dr Jon Orlek, Sheffield Hallam University and Studio Polpo (Sheffield)


Lea O’Loughlin, Co-Director, and Jack Fortescue, Property Development, Acme (London)

    • 3.30PM – 3.40PM BREAK

Rebecca Huggan, Director, The NewBridge Project (Newcastle)


David Cook, Cook Creative (Glasgow)

    • 4.20PM – 5PM DISCUSSION

Facilitated by Gail Prentice and Jane Morrow

Note: this event will be recorded. Please email to be added to the list to receive a link following the event.


  • Helen Carey, Director, Fire Station Artists’ Studios (Dublin)

Helen Carey manages strategy and operations and is responsible for the continued development of the organisation. Fire Station provides affordable residential and studio spaces, practical and evolving resources, professional support and development opportunities in a unique building in the heart of Dublin’s historic north inner city, with a local, national and international remit.

  • Dr Jon Orlek, Sheffield Hallam University and Studio Polpo

Dr Jonathan Orlek is an Associate Lecturer in Architecture at Sheffield Hallam University and a Director of Studio Polpo, a socially engaged architecture collective based in Sheffield. His PhD, a collaborative doctoral project with East Street Arts and the University of Huddersfield, critically investigated the provision of housing by artist-led organisations. It was also a long-term, embedded, ethnographic study of a particular artist-led housing project called Artist House 45, located in South Leeds. His research interests include artist-led organisations, critical spatial practices, and embedded research methods.

  • Lea O’Loughlin, Co-Director, Acme (London)

Lea O’Loughlin is the Co-Director of Acme. Lea has worked with artist studios and residencies for over 20 years. Current voluntary roles include President of the Board of Res Artis, the worldwide professional network of artist residency providers, and membership of the British Council’s UK Hubs Advisory Board and CVAN London.

  • Jack Fortescue, Property Development, Acme (London)

Jack Fortescue’s role is in Property Development, focusing on the development of new properties and opportunities in order to expand and improve Acme’s support for artists. Jack’s role includes advocacy and stakeholder engagement with developers, architects, local authorities and policy makers.

Supporting artists since 1972, Acme is a charity based in London which provides affordable studios, work/live space, and a programme of artist support. Acme is the single largest provider of affordable artist studios in England, and this year it will support over 800 individual artist tenants and a further 31 artists through our Residencies & Awards programmes across 16 buildings in Greater London.

  • Rebecca Huggan, Director, The NewBridge Project

Rebecca oversees the artistic programme, fundraising and managing NewBridge studios and exhibition spaces. Rebecca’s role includes strategic development of the organisation and managing partnerships. She has recently worked on independent projects with Bait and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, and has previously worked at AV Festival, Northern Film and Media, Vane and Project Space Leeds.

The NewBridge Project is an artist-led space that supports artists, curators and communities through the provision of space for creative practice, curatorial opportunities and an ambitious artist-led programme of exhibitions, commissions, artist development and events.

  • David Cook, Cook Creative

David Cook runs Cook Creative, a consultancy which supports creative and social companies with business change and property development.  As Chief Executive of Wasps Artists’ Studios (one of the UK’s largest artist studio provides) for 23 years, he raised and invested over £20m to take the charity out of debt and transform it into a self-funding cultural social enterprise supporting 1,000 creative practitioners across Scotland.  Since leaving Wasps, David has worked with numerous creative and social clients throughout Scotland and other parts of the UK, and is currently leading on the redevelopment of Govanhill Baths in Glasgow as a community wellbeing centre, and the reimagining of West Ward Works, a 20,000 sqm former printworks in Dundee as a cultural ‘hub’.  David is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and a previous winner of the EY Scottish Social Entrepreneur of the Year award.

  • Gail Prentice, Managing Director, Flax Art Studios

Gail Prentice was born and is based in Belfast. She has been Managing Director of Flax Art Studios since 2012 and is responsible for the artistic vision for the studio, its strategic direction and development. Gail gained a BA (Hons) Fine Craft Design from University of Ulster in 1997, and an MA Irish Visual Culture in 2008. Prentice was the Founding Director of the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast in 1998. She then went on to work as Arts Officer for North Down Borough Council from 2001 to 2012, where she was responsible for developing the strategic and artistic vision for the Borough; including the curation of public art commissions and exhibitions. She was Director of the established and critically acclaimed Aspects Irish Literature Festival from 2001-2012. She has contributed as a writer to publications such as Visual Artists Ireland and Art Monthly. Since 2012, she has been Chair of Hard Rain Contemporary Music Ensemble. She is a Steering Group member of the Belfast Visual Arts Forum.

This event is funded by Future Screens NI through the Future Creatives Awards Scheme and supported by Ulster University.

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