Field Trip: BALTIC 39, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Laura Harris visits a fantastic collaborative resource for artists at a former print works in central Newcastle…

Something exciting is happening at BALTIC 39. In a collaboration between Northumbria University, Newcastle City Council and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, a beautifully converted print works in central Newcastle has become home to a dynamic community of creatives. The menagerie of students, studio-holders and exhibitors encourages knowledge-sharing, and the building bristles with the potential collaborations that may be around every corner.

On the ground floor, Northumbria University host MA and PhD students, providing spacious and airy studios. The facility, the BxNU Institute, is a base for teaching on these courses, while also allowing students to develop and explore their practices. A lively roster of public events supports the Institute, such as the regular Talk Studio laboratory led by Prof. Chris Dorsett, which debate issues in contemporary art and often draw on exhibitions at both BALTIC 39 and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. The BxNU also supports two funded residencies, where early (through the Woon Tai Jee Fellowship) and mid-career artists (through the The Warwick Stafford Fellowship) are given the much needed freedom to dedicate themselves to their creative practice.

“In a political landscape that sees many local authorities cutting the arts, Newcastle City Council’s venture here is refreshing”

Above the BxNU Institute, a suite of 25 studios are managed by Newcastle City Council. Here, a broad spectrum of practitioners work, and currently these studios are home to photographers (like Forty One Thirty), technologists (like art app ICoda) and visual artists (like Dan Holdsworth). In a political landscape that sees many local authorities cutting the arts, Newcastle City Council’s venture here is refreshing.


The model allows artists to rent studios without the spiralling costs of private landlords (seen in the housing sector), while also providing the Council a steady trickle of income and the cultural boost of a well-supported arts scene. For the studio’s longevity to be secured, the Council will need to continue their rare dedication to the arts; in the light of BALTIC 39, there is good reason to be optimistic.

“By challenging the traditional categories of artists’ spaces – gallery, school, studio – BALTIC 39 provides an invaluable, and enviable, resource”

In the top floor of the building, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art present exhibitions in the Project Space, an annex to their vast (former mill) Gateshead gallery. Recently, the Project Space has shown Across Islands, Divides an exhibition of new and large-scale works by Peter J. Evans. The space was filled with the sounds of bells, discordant and seemingly random. In fact, the sounds have been carefully composed by Evans, and the exhibition concerned with systems and patterns which at first appear chaotic. His pencil drawings are intricately beautiful, and the conceit of the show was compellingly rendered in a dizzying breadth of mediums.

Baltic 39, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Their next exhibition FIGURE THREE, opening later this month, is an experimental open submission exhibition for artists working across all media to test out ideas before the public; a process usually hidden behind studio doors. This ambitious and fast-paced showcase will take place in the Project Space for five weeks, and will see 10 projects by 15 artists – including Luke McCreadie and Jasleen Kaur – each lasting five days.

BALTIC 39 is a melting pot of creativity, and the collaborative managerial structure allows for a thriving artistic community. By challenging the traditional categories of artists’ spaces – gallery, school, studio – BALTIC 39 provides an invaluable, and enviable, resource for Newcastle’s artists and wider public.

Laura Harris

Visit BALTIC 39, 31-39 High Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1EW. Tel: 0191 261 3830; e-mail:

See BALTIC 39′s new Project Space exhibition FIGURE THREE from 20 January-21 February 2016 — free entry

Open Wed-Sun 12-6pm and Thursdays 12-8pm

Posted on 06/01/2016 by thedoublenegative