Blick Shared Studios

Belfast gallery and retail space aspires to harness a new tide of talent. Click Play Audio for a launch podcast with Christine James and Lisa Conlan

Three years in the making, Blick Shared Studios, a new gallery and retail space with an egalitarian ethos, has finally opened for business and pleasure on Belfast's Malone Road.

With it's big turquoise front door flung open for all to see, Blick launches with a party packed with people, prizes, paintings, photography and infectious artistic passion.

Inside, art work covers the walls on all three levels, with roomfuls of crafts, jewellery and textile pieces to entice the art lover ever onward. 

Tonight the wine flows as artists and organisers let their hair down after a three-year period of toil and trouble. It's time to celebrate. Music is provided courtesy of DJ Sofakid and Joe Lindsay, with Koko and the Boomtown Cats performing live.

It isn’t a blink and you'll miss it kind of affair. Blick Shared Studios start as they mean to go on - big, bright, busy and bursting with creative talent.

Blick Shared Studios describe themselves as a creative thinktank, a place of opportunity for all artists in Northern Ireland to take advantage of. Funded by UNltd, the University of Ulster and Belfast City Council, their aim is to create and foster a self-reliant community of indigenous artists.

An annual membership fee of £30 affords artists the room to display their work. The gallery thereafter take a 30% commission from all sales. A fully-furnished seminar room can also be used for seminars, workshops, lectures or events.

Christine James and Rose Kane, the brains behind Blick, aspire to attract artists to stay in their native Northern Ireland rather than leave to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. 'The overall aim,' James declares, 'is to help start up businesses in the creative industries.

'We aim to make Blick a home for creatives of all persuasions, from designers to fashionistas, film makers to artists.'

Lisa Conlon, visual co-ordinator and an artist in her own right, further comments:

'A lot of work has gone into Blick. We have a number of studio spaces available for artists. It's quite reasonably priced, and we're very pleased with the response we've had from artists so far. Hopefully artists will feel comfortable here, help each other out and find success in the future.'

Blick’s focus is not solely on paint and plastic. Tonight, film is provided by Future Shorts. It's an eclectic, eventful evening hosted by an equally eclectic bunch of people.

With attractive markets abroad, they might have their work cut out in persuading artists to remain in Northern Ireland. But with smiles as wide and warm as theirs, the good people of Blick Shared Studios have at least taken the first step to homegrown success. 

Anne-Marie Marquess