BAR Lane Studios, one of York’s last affordable community art spaces, will close its doors for the final time on June 28.

"This art space has allowed local artists to work and produce art within York’s city walls for nearly a decade and will be sorely missed by artists and the wider art community," says Mila Romans, curator and multidisciplinary resident artist at the studios next to Micklegate Social.

She and the studio premises' caretaker and artist in residence, Chalky The Yorkie, are inviting fellow artists to join in with the display of a collection of work "in celebration of creativity and remembrance of the many artists who have enjoyed the privilege of working in the art space since its inception in 2010".

Ben Clowes, the original managing director when the studios opened, says: "Bar Lane Studios came about from a need from York’s creative community, who wanted a place to provide affordable studios space and present opportunities for artists to exhibit their work, put on a gig or concert, show to the public their performance piece, as well as providing somewhere to network, debate, discuss and socialise.”

Mila and Chalky are calling on York's art community to mark the passing of Bar Lane Studios by bringing their own art or making it there and then. "The last ever Bar Lane Studios event will open with life drawing and live music on Thursday, June 20, from 5pm to 9pm," says Chalky. "You can contribute a piece of poetry, dance, song or conversation to this pre-exhibition launch opening event.

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RALLYING CALL: Mila Romans wants the spirit of Bar Lane Studios to live on

"The exhibition will then run all week, open from 12 noon to 7pm daily, until June 28 and will culminate with a symbolic funeral procession and wake party at Micklegate Social next door from 7pm that evening," says Mila.

The week-long farewell will carry the title of The Burial Of Bar Lane Studios. "The doors will close forever on Friday, June 28 at 4pm, and the closure will be commemorated by offerings of art being placed in a coffin as a symbol of York’s “dying” art community and carried as a funeral procession to York City Council offices," says Chalky. "The intention is to raise awareness of a lack of funding and workspaces for artists and creatives in York."

Mila takes up the point. "For several years, living in a city rich with talent, I have seen many fine artists, unable to find art space, having to relocate further out of York.

"For a city thriving on tourism, I believe there’s some room for improvement in terms of the balance between visitors' needs and the health of local communities.

"It does makes me wonder, if the city continues to be converted into hotels and bars, what York’s cultural reputation will be like in the not too distant?"

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ARTFUL: Chalky The Yorkie with his ever flamboyant artwork. Picture: Mila Romans

Looking back at the birth of Bar Lane Studios, Ben Clowes pulled together a board of directors, led by Mark Gibson, who gave up their time, knowledge and skills to gain funding to open the studio doors and deliver a programme of exhibitions and events, along with a café, print room, gallery, performance venue and mentoring scheme.

The studios opened on May 7 2010 with a specially commissioned exhibition by The Stone Roses' guitarist, John Squire. "The build-up to this day had not been easy; grant money obtained was cut back, shopfitters went bust, and a leaking roof was discovered," recalls Chalky. "But it opened and the building was packed with artisans from across the city.

"n that night, every studio space was booked, people signed up to exhibit their work or put on a gig, performance or event, City of Council, who had provided some start-up funding, gave it a glowing seal of approval and Bar Lane Studios set off on its adventure into building a space for the people of York.

"It was an adventure and a rollecoaster ride that meant all involved experienced both highs and lows. More than 30 exhibitions took place, ranging from local artists to Matisse prints; gigs were held by young musicians  as well as international bands, reviewed in the NME; and the studios brought back The York Summer Show, worked with York St John’s University and were commissioned by Hugo Boss to help open its largest store in Europe."

MIla says: "Bar Lane Studios had an amazing [first] three years where suddenly anything seemed possible; the local creative industry had somewhere to meet and grow ideas and concepts, local artists had a supportive network that allowed ideas to turn into reality, Bar Lane Studios gave itself for collaboration and development."

York Press:

FINISHING TOUCHES: Artists Mila Romans and Chalky The Yorkie prepare for the Bar Lane Studios farewell

Bar Lane Studios had an amazing three years where suddenly anything seemed possible, the local creative industry had somewhere to meet and grow ideas and concepts, local artists had a supportive network that allowed ideas to turn into reality, Bar Lane Studios gave itself for collaboration and development.

However, the studios were hot by the triple whammy of "the credit crunch, the collapse of the banks and the suspension of funding in the YO1 area". 

"The vision to provide an independent, part public-funded creative hub became a model that was not sustainable in the climate it found itself in," says Chalky.

"It had to change, it had to try and survive because it had achieved so much, and at the directors' expense it handed over the studios to its occupants and closed the doors on the gallery, café, shop and performance venue, but since then it has continued and allowed its name to carry some of York’s artists through to the present day."

Mila concludes: "The Bar Lane Studios concept should not die. Granted it needs to change its model, but it is needed in this creative city; it needs to be re-born as a co-operative.

"It needs the local creative industry to recognise what it is missing and collaborate in an independent – free from local authority – hive of ideas, business and creative opportunities that mentor our youth and develop our knowledge rich established artisans. Long Live Bar Lane Studios."