Member of the Week - WASPS (Workshop and Artists Studio Provision Scotland) Ltd

Wasps has been operating in Scotland for 41 years, starting out with one studio building in Dundee.  Wasps is now the UK’s largest non-profit studio provider for artists, providing affordable workspaces in 19 locations across Scotland, currently supporting over 900 creative tenants at various stages in their careers.  As a Registered Charity and Social Enterprise, our tenancies are designed to be affordable and flexible and Wasps’ provides additional support to assist our tenant’s career development – organising creative events, open studios, exhibitions and artists’ residencies in our buildings which include 9 galleries and 4 residencies spaces. 

Wasps puts their creative tenants and sustainability at the centre of the work they do.  Occupancy across their estate is 99%.  Since 2014, they are proud to be in a position where their core operations are fully self-financed through rental income.  As a Registered Charity they must seek external investment for capital developments, but only embark on these projects where there is evidence of local need and support from the community, backed up by a robust business case which proves the facility will be financially sustainable when in operation.  Wasps are a not-for-profit organisation so any surplus from rents goes back into support for their tenants and maintaining and managing the buildings responsibly. Wasps operates Nationally and has 25 employees.  Their 19 buildings across Scotland are home to over 900 artists and creative organisations, including their 20 new artist tenants in the newly opened Phase 1 of Inverness Creative Academy at Midmills.

We spoke to Audrey Carlin, Chief Executive Officer at Wasps for over three years. About her experience and role, Audrey said: “I am a Chartered Town Planner with over 25 years’ experience of delivering £45m of regeneration focused activity in Scotland. Much of Wasps’ work involves bringing historic buildings back into use as artists’ studios and a base for cultural social enterprises– helping to regenerate the communities in which they are located. Providing space for creative industries to start up and grow has been an increasingly important part of this work in recent years, contributing significantly to Scotland’s fast growing creative economic sector. In the past four years I am delighted to have led the development of four new studio facilities across the Scottish Highlands with the aim of keeping creative talent in Scotland and in the regions where people are being educated and want to continue to live and work. These new facilities offer people the opportunity to stay and contribute to the local economy in these regional communities.”

Audrey told us why Wasps would like to feature as member of the week: “Wasps is delighted to have completed Phase 1 of our first major Highland venture in Inverness and we wanted the opportunity to spread the news.”

Wasps has been developing their plans for the Highlands first large scale creative hub with the support of Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, Inverness City Heritage Trust and UHI since 2014.  Since then, they have completed 3 other small projects in the Highlands – Links Studios in Nairn (10 studios), Stromness Studios in Orkney (4 spaces and a printmaking studio) and The Admiral’s House, a 3 person residency space in Skye.

In January 2018 Wasps acquired the two Category B Listed buildings on the Midmills regeneration site in the Crown area of Inverness.  This is Wasps’ 19th property in Scotland.  Wasps are redeveloping these buildings in two phases to deliver an accessible, fit for purpose and sustainable creative hub.  Phase 1 is complete and largely provides studio space for visual artists, arts practitioners and makers – many of whom will offer creative learning opportunities to the public.  Phase 2 will be the ‘creative industries’ hub – with a mixture of flexible and permanent workspaces for creative businesses, digital makers and freelance creative professionals.    

Wasps are keen to hear from as many individuals and organisations in Highland who are interested in this new venture – as future tenants, supporters, partners, looking for temporary spaces or events hire, or have ideas about how Inverness Creative Academy might benefit the community and your businesses.

Inverness Creative Academy is a new facility for The Highlands and it is crucial to the success of the venture that the building is accessible and used by the whole community to engage in art for positive health and well-being, as well as encouraging creative careers. 

Phase 1 is complete and provides:

30 artist’s studios/workspaces
A darkroom
Events Space in the restored gym hall
Artist workshop space
Fully accessible associated facilities

Phase 2 is in development and will provide:

Office and workspaces for creative industries and cultural social enterprises (for approx. 54 people)
Graduate studios
Flexible co-working space for individuals, SMEs, visiting companies
Meeting rooms and screening rooms
A social enterprise café in the restored Assembly Hall
Exhibition and events spaces on both levels
Fully accessible associated facilities.

Subject to funding, Phase 2 works are planned to go on site in summer 2019 and complete in summer 2020.

Wasps are still seeking investment partners and tenant organisations for Phase 2, so please contact them to discuss opportunities.

First and foremost Wasps exists to provide accessible and affordable studio accommodation for artists, makers and creative industry organisations.  They have three main business areas: Managing and investing in their existing estate, undertaking new developments (such as Inverness Creative Academy) which help them meet their organisational aims, and supporting their tenants through their Arts Enterprise Programme. 

Inverness Creative Academy is one of two major developments which Wasps’ is working on and will be a critical focus for our business in the next 12 months.  The second is a creative hub currently on site in Perth – Creative Exchange Perth. 

During the next 12 months at Inverness Creative Academy they want to see the completed Phase fully occupied, with the events space fully utilised, collaborating with the artists to bring the building to life.  Wasps will also raise the remaining investment for Phase 2 and be on site by summer 2019, driving this project forward whilst working with the local community to ensure the completed development fulfils its potential for Inverness and the surrounding area.   

Wasps’ is proud to support a diverse mix of artists, makers and creators.  82% of their artists are exhibiting locally, and 25% are exhibiting internationally.  In 2018 one of their Glasgow based tenants, Charlotte Prodger, was nominated and won The Turner Prize.  Demand for Wasps’ studio space is constantly high and occupancy at Links Studios in Nairn has virtually been at 100% since opening in 2015. 

About Inverness Chamber membership, Audrey said: "Wasps has recently joined Inverness Chamber but already we have been delighted by the number of interesting and useful introductions we’ve been able to make at their events, and ideas from the team on how we can engage the wider community in Inverness and the Highlands in our exciting new project and spaces.

"There is so much to learn about the Highland Business Community from the Chamber of Commerce as new Members we recommend speaking to the team at the start and making a plan for how you’d like to engage with other Members and promote your business.  We want Inverness Creative Academy to be a key cultural workspace in the city, so it is great for us to have the opportunity to speak to the Membership whilst the project is in development so we can be sure to get it right."

Twitter: @waspsstudios
Facebook: @invernesscreativeacademy
Facebook: @waspsstudios