Hammersmith’s shopping centre artists’ studio

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Image captionHannah Bays believes KM Residency makes studio work a reality for young artists such as herself

An innovative use of a vacant retail unit has created thriving studio space for artists in Hammersmith.

KM Residency is the name that has been given to the former toiletries and cosmetics store in Kings Mall, which is for the time being home to six artists at work.

The collaboration between Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Kings Mall and Hammersmith London has seen the vacant space handed over to young artists to enable them to create their work without the expense of studio fees.

This will culminate in a public exhibition, to be launched in the space on 11 May, where the artists will display the work they have created in their shopping centre studio.

The studio will remain a creative space for as long as the retail unit is vacant: creating both a community benefit, and a local attraction, from a temporary disadvantage.

Hannah Bays, who finished studying art in 2015, says KM Residency makes studio work a reality for those people who may not have access to a studio.

“Realistically, getting a studio is very expensive,” she said. “With rent and studio fees, you're looking at £250 a week – which on an artist's income is very difficult.

“It is a bit bizarre being in a shopping centre, but this is a great space, and a great size too. I'm a bit of a sponge, creatively, so the ambiance of the place gets soaked up,” she said.

KM Residency could hold as many as 15 artists, and Hammersmith & Fulham Council has been contacting colleges around London to offer access to space – which is otherwise in short supply for young artists.

Georgia Kitty Harris, who went to school in Hammersmith and graduated from the Royal College of Art last year, is a great example of how the creative process is influenced by environment.

She has created a series of portraits of people who have passed by her window on the shopping centre; and called the collection Mall Rats – after the 1995 Kevin Smith movie.

People wander in – often out of curiosity – and she asks for a picture, which she then spends about 45 minutes recreating in portrait form.

She has a whole book of Mall Rats.

“I didn't have the studio space at all” said Georgia.

“I've always had to pack my stuff back into a bag, and this is the first time I've been able to have my own creative space,” she said.

KM Residency is open now in Kings Mall Shopping Centre for inquisitive passers by, and the exhibition of artists work will open there on 11 May.

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