APEC (Art Producing Economic Community) is an artist-run studio complex, operating on a not for profit basis, currently providing space for 18 non-commercial artists. The studios were set up in 2003 to provide secure, affordable workspace specifically for fine artists – those whose practices are the most financially vulnerable – in an area of the country where suitable premises are scarce and becoming increasingly expensive. Conversion of the unit (2852 sq ft) to artists’ studios was made possible by support from Arts Council England, a loan from Cooperative finance and the generosity of the founder members in giving freely of their unpaid time and labour. Since our founding we have continued to run as a cooperative venture, have become entirely self-financing and all of the studios have remained constantly occupied.
APEC maintains a diverse, dynamic identity, with a shared belief in seriousness of intent and delight in artistic diversity. By maintaining a mix of established professionals with recent graduates and the less experienced, all of us benefit, the more established artists offering their support and experience, while the input of newer members ensures a freshness and generosity of spirit that keeps us open to new ideas. The studios are small enough to preserve a sense of community and through daily contact we continue to evolve both individually and as a group. This mutually supportive environment allows us to develop individual and collaborative projects, create dialogues that develop our work, and generate opportunities to exhibit, finding ways in which the results of our labours can contribute to local and national culture.
As a group we exhibit approximately twice annually, in the Brighton festival, and also during Cinecity and the Brighton Photo Fringe. Outside these advertised events the space has been used as an educational and cultural resource for visitors from institutions and community groups. We have also been host to delegations from Local Authorities including Swale, Queenborough & Rushenden, Maidstone, Reading and the Isle of Wight. The contributions APEC makes to society should not be seen as limited to just those things that we do together within the building, but also in providing an incubator for each of our personal contributions through a huge and ongoing range of individual and collaborative public activities by our members including exhibitions, educational events, community workshops, courses, public lectures, screenings, poetry readings and performances. It can sometimes be overlooked that for any art to appear in the public realm it must first have a secure, private space in which it can be developed.
Number of current studio members: 18. Ages range from 23 to over 70; levels of experience from recent graduates to consummate professionals. APEC embraces artistic aspiration from the modest to the international. Previous members (approximately 50 all told) have included not only artists of all levels of experience from recent graduates to the firmly established, but also gallerists, educators and curators.