New Arts Centre Launch in Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough is about to be open to a new hub of art with a new Community Arts Centre. Thanks to Art Teacher and Creative Champion, Sara Calgie is opening the centre later in September.

And I interview her to find out all about it.


Tell me more about yourself Sara?

I followed an art school route after getting involved with fashion shows with a friend who had started off in that direction and I loved it. I enrolled at Cleveland College of Art and Design and that got me to Berkshire College of Art and Design after it.

My working life in my 20’s and early 30’s was all in a range of creative roles. It spanned interiors, I had my own design shop, Tempter Interiors in Newcastle City Centre for a good few years, I sold art online and later establishing and managing a gallery, Opus, for a client.


Sara Calgie (right)
Sara Calgie (right)

I had a change of heart as I got older and wanted to do something with a bit more social responsibility, hence my debut in a real learning establishment, Durham University. It meant the world to me to be taken onto their foundation programme and then to study Education.

Three years on I decided that I wanted to be a lot more creative in my role so I brought all of my skills together and started independently as an arts consultant and teaching art, crafts and ceramics in primary schools and nurseries. I had found my groove.


Now three years on Sara has decided to open a Community Art Studio. 

I want the value of art to be seen explicitly in the community. Children take rewards for almost all other areas of activity, football, sports, swimming and dance. The lack of incentive for individuals, that values art, has always glared at me. We live in an age of productivity.

I want to counteract that by providing the perfect space, an environment that  is so full of engaging resources, that people of all ages can come in, ‘clart on’ and be creative, be ‘unbusy.’ We don’t have any outcomes here, it’s about making the opportunity to practice art available, valued and celebrated.

We can help support the learning with showing  techniques of how to use different materials and tools but how they are interpreted is individual.

Creativity is a tacit skill that you bring your own experience to and express yourself.

Who is the centre for? How can they use it?

The centre is for all ages. Predominantly I set it up so that schools and nurseries could visit. Early years have good provision for creative play but this becomes a very small part of education when they start moving through primary. I would like schools to visit our Studio to enhance their creativity. We can respond quickly to child led learning, work with any curriculum subject or topic, as we understand the learning goals whilst being creative. As we’re located right next to Albert Park and the Dorman Museum we can be the third provider for school trips.


When can they visit ?

We are open from 9- 5:30 most days. The days we have classes, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, we open later, up to 8pm and we have open studio time on Mondays and Saturdays. Sundays is our party day. We love to do parties but we’re keeping them to one day. As we have a different groups booking in for sessions such as schools and nurseries it is best to check our timetable, which we post for the week ahead on Sunday evenings, to see what is on each week.

What type of art can be created there?

We also have times when we put classes on for all ages. Three days a week we have sessions that are aimed at pre school children, after school arts clubs as well as adult classes. We’ve called these ‘Claytime,’ ‘Maketime’ and ‘Playtime.’ They cover all abilities in pottery, crafts and  traditional arts, as well as some edgy new ones. It could be Macrame or willow sculpture!! There’s always open studio time when you can make or do whatever you choose. We have endless resources so you can follow your own interests.

Sara is having an official opening day to launch the centre.

Our official Opening day is on Thursday, 21st September at 12:00 – 1:00 for invited guests and then an open afternoon for all those wishing to call in and find out more about our community services.

We are so pleased to have Wayne Hemingway of Hemingway Design as our official opener at the event. Wayne has had, and continues to have, an amazing career in design.

The diversity and influence of his company has afforded him the reputation of being able to look at things as a visionary breathing new life into already good stuff from products, fashion, environments and events.  Having been involved with Middlesbrough creative initiatives going back several years, and as the co- founder of the fast approaching Festival of Thrift, he understands that it has a creative beating heart. He is a true creative visionary, a great business man too!


How are you spreading the word about the centre?

Word is spreading slowly. Its mainly word of mouth but awareness will grow through collaboration. Were doing some bigger projects later this year with organisations such as the Discover Middlesbrough Festival, Cleveland College of Art and Design and they have their own marketing and PR so we will start to filter out our presence that way.

We also have an incredible building that is so unique and special that it’s another story. We have a talk about it, its significance to Mid 20th Century Modern design, planned with a specialist from the Antiques roadshow, Andy McConnell talking in October. There’s a lot going on!

What are your hopes for the centre? Where do you see it in the future.

I really hope that we can become a go to for schools and organisations to use us as an art studio, a ‘tinker lab,’ to strengthen and embed the children’s learning through creative activity.

I hope that we get increasing numbers able to come in and get into their zone, express themselves and learn through creative engagement. It’s a place for connection, for learning and for creativity. I hope we become a host for more creative organisations who have approached us, such as charities, and  form new networking events to serve our communities emerging needs.

As a Community Interest Company the surplus funds have to go back into the service. We have lots of paid activities that provide a range of revenue streams so there is sustainability but the surplus will provide continued professional development sessions for schools, early years practitioners, childminders and home school educators.

If that works out then I would like to think that we could scale this model and make sure that there is at least one of these centres in all towns and cities. Parents can see what is happening to our creative provision in education. This model helps everyone as well as being a great commercial idea.


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