Next month, MAIA, a leading Black-led arts and social justice organisation, officially launches a new flagship venue for artists from Black and under-represented communities. Named YARD Arthouse, it is the first realised phase in an ambitious wider regeneration project involving the opening of a unique artist-led hotel and cultural hub in 2023, within one of the most culturally neglected neighbourhoods in the West Midlands.
The ground-breaking project aims to demonstrate the powerful role of the arts in transforming neighbourhoods and to give local people from marginalised and culturally deprived communities a sense of agency. MAIA collaborated with regeneration developer Urban Splash whose charitable trust has supported this first phase of their plans, together with Arts Council England. For the development phase of ABUELOS, the artist-led hotel, support has come from Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Arts Council England and The National Lottery Community Fund.
Situated at Port Loop, a new neighbourhood being delivered by Joint Venture partners Urban Splash and Places for People on a former industrial site in North Birmingham’s Ladywood area (a historically deprived part of the inner city), YARD Arthouse is formed out of the footprint of a large three-storey townhouse. Combining event, exhibition and living quarters, the space invites local creatives, theatre-makers, performers, artists and writers, as well as those coming into the city, to reside and collaborate.
The ground floor is made up of a community kitchen and podcast facilities, with flexible space for exhibitions, scratch night performances and screenings. The first floor has a soundproof recording studio and rehearsal space. The second floor is made up of two large en-suite rooms where artists can stay while in residence.
The creatives behind YARD Arthouse and the opening of ABUELOS, the second phase of its wider vision, include playwright, theatre-maker and producer Amahra Spence and producer Amber Caldwell. Both are the co-founders of MAIA who have been championing, platforming and fundraising for Black artists across the UK for over eight years. In 2020, MAIA led the West Midlands Coronavirus Impact Fund which helped to raise and redistribute money to local artists falling between the gaps of state support.
Spence who grew up in Ladywood on the same road where YARD arthouse is now located said: “Decades of austerity have meant that our spaces for being together have gone, youth centres, libraries, arts spaces. Many more are at threat. It is vital in a post Covid-landscape that we find ways to support and amplify the work of creatives from black and under-represented communities. By providing quality arts programming, an innovative business model and a sound infrastructure to a neighbourhood which has never benefited from any cultural investment our hope is that YARD arthouse and ultimately our artist-led hotel ABUELOS, become a beacon for sustainable eco-systems for arts and culture in the community.”
Imagination SZN, will be YARD arthouse’s first ever season of programmed work. Due to the pandemic, it will be launched online in April and includes a mix of workshops, talks and participatory arts projects committed to amplifying the imaginations and possibilities of community-led transformation.