On 12 June, Test Valley Arts Foundation celebrated the beginning of the refurbishment of St Mary’s Chapel in St Mary’s Churchyard in Andover to turn it into ‘Chapel Arts’. This new space for the visual arts will provide studio space for up to 4 artists. Funding by Arts Council England, Hampshire County Council, Test Valley Borough Council, the Hampshire Police Authority and through Test Valley Arts Foundation’s own resources made it possible the contractor, Strongbond Construction LTD hope to complete constuction by the end of August.
Speaking at the chapel to invited guests, Test Valley Arts Foundation Chairman Roy Perry commented: “We are most grateful for the generous financial support received which after two years of planning and fundraising enables us to get this project off the ground. Our vision is to renovate and develop a disused chapel in the centre of Andover and to convert it into a vibrant centre for the visual arts, so that the local community and disadvantaged groups can experience for themselves something of the joy that being creative can bring.”
St Mary’s Chapel is a redundant Victorian building located in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in the centre of Andover. It has not been used in a religious capacity since 1940, when the last burial service took place. Test Valley Arts Foundation has championed the idea of reinvigorating and converting the Chapel into a dedicated arts studio and exhibition space for the benefit of individual artists and the wider community. The idea was the idea of Madeline Edmonds (Trustee, Test Valley Arts Foundation), but much of the fundraising and campaigning was done by Michael Widen (Development Officer, Test Valley Arts Foundation).
At the ceremony were Rev David Williams, Vicar of St Marys, the Mayor of Test Valley, and Yinnon Ezra, Director of Culture Communities and Rural Affairs at Hampshire County Council
Ownership of the Chapel is and will remain with Test Valley Borough Council, but under a 25 year lease agreement implementation and management of the project will be the responsibility of Test Valley Arts Foundation.
The project is designed to help aspiring artists develop their careers and to play their part in a plan for a more prosperous, a more entertaining and a more inclusive Andover. Another aim is to give this historic building a new lease of life that can be fully enjoyed by local residents and used to expand their cultural experiences.
The workshop space will be open to the public, with an 'art and heritage' link to other cultural facilities, with resident artists at work to give it a unique quality and core 'artistic identity', encouraging participation in the arts through artist-led workshops and events, artist-led outreach education and audience development programmes, working with schools, school exclusions, families, groups and individuals with particular needs and interests including young offenders.
There are no other dedicated and affordable studio spaces for up-coming or professional community artists to work from in North West Hampshire. As part of the Hampshire County Council’s evolving Arts Strategy this project reflects their policies to build artistic capacity in areas of relative deprivation and encourages creative use of community buildings or spaces. For Test Valley Borough Council, this Chapel’s conversion into an Arts Studio reflects their own priorities - with Culture being one such objective. This project is felt to fit well with a more detailed plan of town centre regeneration. The ‘Andover Chapel’ was identified by the ‘Andover Vision’ Board as a priority project for the first four years 2006 to 2009. Test Valley Arts Foundation consulted ‘The Colour Factory’, a highly successful Winchester based community arts centre, who enthusiastically endorsed our plans for ‘Chapel Arts’ as an ‘incubator’ in support of young and emerging artists.
'I applaud this imaginative use of a redundant building, congratulate all those involved in this building, and wish the artists well.'