Many people in Cork are surprised to hear that the old FAS building on Sullivan’s Quay is not abandoned and empty but, in fact, home to Sample-Studios, a multi-disciplinary creative centre that includes 62 art studios, an exhibition gallery, a 51 seater amphitheatre and a host of other facilities.
The aim of 'Sample' is to support and promote emerging and established artists while developing local, national and international initiatives.
On March 11th 2011, a group of 3rd year students from Crawford College of Art and Design were granted access to the former government building to exhibit their final work.
The week-long agreement with the building’s owners BAM Construction, stretched out to fill the rest of that summer and then further than anyone could have anticipated.
The artists that remained became self-organised, resulting in the founding of Sample-Studios.
Now this weekend, from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th of March the members of Sample-Studios are opening the doors of this iconic construction and inviting the public in to celebrate their 5th birthday with a host of exhibitions, seminars and workshops.
Artistic Director Aideen Quirke says it is a wonderful opportunity for the people of Cork to see the effort and dedication that has gone into Sample-Studios over the past 5 years.
“It’s very diverse, the majority of members are visual art or performance arts practitioners but we have a lot of people working in other backgrounds too; theatre producers, graphic designers, writers.
"Then there are the groups, one of which is called Nexus Cork. They are a hackerspace, a collective of computer programmers, game designers etc.
"They hold monthly events called Dev Talks and that brings a whole different type of audience into the building that offer a whole other type of creativity. There is such a high standard of work being produced here and this has had a huge positive impact on the city yet still so many people don’t even know we exist. ”
It is a pity that the members of Sample-Studios sometimes feel invisible, especially when you don’t have to look far to see their work. Cafes and restaurants in Cork are increasingly open to exhibiting their artwork.
There have been scores of collaborations through the past half-decade with different organisations such as Cork Mid-Summer Festival and Quarter Block Party.
And while they have managed to stay financially afloat with the help of a high volume of volunteers, their professionalism has not gone completely unnoticed.
In recent years they have secured Arts Council funding through the Visual Arts Workspace Scheme and the City Council Arts Grants Scheme.
This support has allowed for developments like their Performing Arts Programme and TACTIC, the artist led project space.
What Sample-Studios has also revealed is the high demand for artists work spaces in the city and the amount of people who are looking for suitable venues to create an organized work group. T
he studios range in size depending on the purpose and are available for rent at an affordable €85 per month. At the moment they are full to capacity with requests for spaces coming in at an almost overwhelming pace from all over the country.
In a society where surviving as an artist is difficult, this collaborative space makes it so much easy to forge a career in the arts.
So what’s in store for the next five years? The future of Sample-Studios is unfortunately uncertain. Their home on Sullivan’s Quay is earmarked for redevelopment as part of the Cork Conference Centre and eviction is inevitable.
“This something we have always known. The current owners, BAM Construction have allowed us to stay here on an ongoing but short term tenancy agreement.
"We couldn’t praise them enough, they have always been fair and more than reasonable to us and we’ve been fortunate enough to be here for as long as we have. But we need to find an alternative venue.
"I don’t really see it as a problem because the 82 artists that are here, they don’t just cease to work because the work space doesn’t exist. But at the same time I would love to keep our practitioners together as much as I can.”
But now is not the time to worry about the future, it is a time to celebrate the accomplishments, hard work and commitment that this community of artists have achieved.
Thursday 10 March
Friday 11 March
Saturday 12 March
Sunday 13 March
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