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Former Swansea music shop turned into creative hub to support digital art innovators

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A former Swansea city centre music shop has been transformed into a new creative hub to help local artists and creative industries come together to learn skills that make best use of digital platforms.

Funded by Swansea Council and Creative Wales – a Welsh Government initiative to promote the Creative Industries – the Swansea hub is one of three such cultural hubs in Wales.

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Acting as a creative network that will assist the professional development of those who get involved, the creative hub will support South West Wales as a whole.

Based on a pop-up idea to make the most of empty buildings, the first phase of the project, called Arts Arkade, is now based at the former Cranes music shop in the city centre.

This space has been transformed and fitted out with new tools to help artists collaborate and develop their work for digital and public platforms.

As well as the potential development of new content for facilities like the digital wraparound skin at Swansea Arena, work at the hub could also lead to temporary artworks at new public spaces and events.

Content could also be created for a number of new screens and light features forming part of units being developed on Cupid Way – a new link between the city centre and the Copr Bay district including the new bridge over Oystermouth Road, Swansea Arena and the city’s new coastal park.

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Other creative hub project phases and locations will follow in the coming years, to provide artists and young people with the opportunity to come together, network and learn new skills that can provide creative and cultural activities in the surrounding area.

The concept was devised by the Council’s Cultural Services team and Tunde Olatunji, a PhD student from Swansea University’s Computational Foundry. Mr Olatunji will provide the creative direction as part of a three-year research programme for how digital spaces affect or support our cultural offer in the public realm.

Dawn Bowden (Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts & Skills), Cllr Robert Francis-Davies (Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism), Tunde Olatunji (PhD student at Swansea University’s computational foundry), and members of Swansea Council’s cultural services team. (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “With so many digital platforms now being developed in the city centre, this makes for a fantastic digital tapestry for local artists, the Welsh creative industries and our young people.

“Arts Arkade won’t just give this talented community a high-quality, agile space where they can collaborate, network, improve their digital skills and create, but it will also enable data collation and research on how audiences respond to our new spaces, and digital artworks in the post-Covid world.

“Online masterclasses from digital art experts will be among the activities there, as part of a project which will eventually lead to a digital art experience from the station to the sea that best celebrates Swansea’s rich cultural heritage.

“Arts Arkade will complement and link-in with an already thriving programme of cultural activities and events at the council’s other cultural venues, giving local people the opportunity to place Swansea at the very forefront of digital art innovation.”

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Dawn Bowden, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, said: “I am really pleased to be able to launch the new creative hub. This facility will help drive creativity within Swansea and its closeness to the new arena can only help with that ambition.

“This project was one of Creative Wales’ three pilot projects that look at how the creative industries can support our town centre regeneration. There are many examples of how the creative industries can drive town centre regeneration and I am very keen to see how this project delivers change for Swansea, so we can share lessons with other town centres across Wales.

“This facility will provide opportunities for local artists and creatives to engage the community and reimagine the space. It is also great to hear that this facility will support young people with a range of abilities and experiences to engage in creative learning.”

Linking in with cultural programmes at Swansea Council’s cultural venues like the Dylan Thomas Centre and the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Arts Arkade will also draw on traditional and contemporary art forms, like fine art, literature and dance – mixed with hip-hop, street arts and breakdancing – to produce digital artworks and develop a stronger profile for ‘Creative Swansea’ through using apps, screens, events and traditional exhibition space.

Arts Arkade is part of a larger temporary plan for the former St David’s Shopping Centre site to create more vibrancy there, pending its longer-term regeneration. The temporary plan also includes a pop-up park, plenty of green spaces and pop-up units for local food and drink businesses.

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Lead image: (from left to right): Tunde Olatunji (PhD student at Swansea University’s computational foundry), Dawn Bowden (Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts & Skills), Tracey McNulty (Head of cultural services at Swansea Council), Cllr Robert Francis-Davies (Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism). (Image: Swansea Council)

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