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Setting Up A Creative Community, With Haarlem Artspace

Bev Shephard, WebinArt Mentor and Co-Director of Haarlem Artspace shares an introduction to the journey of Haarlem Artspace, and focuses on the importance of community being at the core of their purpose and growth.

Haarlem Artspace champions rural contemporary art regionally, nationally and internationally through gallery and online exhibitions, residencies, publications, symposia, talks and events. With an ambitious annual programme of exhibitions, residencies and events, Haarlem Artspace attracts broad audiences to the historic town of Wirksworth, which sits in an inspiring landscape. Collaboration is at the heart of our work and through connections to a broad cultural network, we encourage the cross-pollination of ideas and facilitate inter-disciplinary knowledge exchange.


Our creative community’s home is in a beautiful historic grade II* listed building that is a sanctuary for our resident artists and makers. It’s an inspiring place to work with modern facilities and lively studio culture and community.

We have grown rapidly since we officially opened in May 2017 from a top floor studio with 11 people, to now 40 creatives over three floors, plus another handful of associate artists who are very much part of our community and have their studio at home.

We’re pushing at the limit of what the building can accommodate but rather than stop here, it’s bringing us to a place where we’re seeking to engage with the community outside of the studios, taking Haarlem Artspace to new audiences in new ways.

It has taken 6 years to get to this point though. Some of this was planned – we spent so much time on strategy in the early days in order to develop a clear vision of the future. Some of it has been revealed to us as the community has come together. The latter has what’s been such a pleasant surprise to me because I hadn’t anticipated the way people would get on board with the vision and lend their own unique strengths to help bring it about.

Looking back, the right people in the right place with the right idea was what brought Haarlem Artspace together, and once we had formed the team, the organisation has grown into something none of us would ever have achieved alone. It now has its own identity and we hope, offers a distinctive lense through which it sees the world, sharing that with others through its exhibition and events programme.

Taking people with us on the journey has been so important. In the early days, we couldn’t access the building due to bat surveys, red tape and building work, so we had a choice – share our vision for what was coming, or wait until we could ‘start’ properly. We chose the former, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Doing this brought the right people to us – both virtually with lively social media, and in person, in that the studios were full from opening and we had 360 people attend our opening from the local community. I don’t think waiting for an official opening would have had the same result.

We also learned to understand that not everyone grasps the vision at the same time. Some people can't see the bigger picture until they see a space in the flesh. We had waves of take up, which worked beautifully for us as we expanded into the refurbished building one floor at a time. Not everyone comes to an idea at the same pace or same time.

Bev Shephard

See more of what Haarlem Artspace do here -


WebinArt members can find out more about the journey of Haarlem Artspace from Bev and fellow Co-Director Livvy Punnett (2 or the 4 Directors) in our upcoming Webinar. Livvy Punnett is an artist, lecturer, cultural producer and curator. Bev Shephard is an independent Finance Director and business development consultant and both are founders and Co-Directors of Haarlem Artspace.


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