By Joey Zhang
A petition to open a dedicated art space on campus has gained widespread support from creatives at LSE: amassing approximately 200 signatures from students and staff thus far.
The petition comes in reaction to an absence of suitable venues with adequate facilities for art production at the university’s campus. Creatives have been resorting to randomly assigned, poorly equipped classrooms for such purposes.
The request to gauge demand for an art space was put forth by Nancy Baltouna of LSE’s Space Planning Team. In response, Danny Wills, co-chair of the LSESU Creative Network, started the petition in October 2023. He writes that the lack of a permanent art space on campus has “stifled any opportunity for creative activity or community at the university,”; he appealed to LSE’s creatives for support to show real demand for this space.
April Ji, President of the LSESU Crafts Society and Secretary of LSESU Visual Arts, comments on the inadequacy of existing venues in supporting art production; she explains that “we cannot accommodate bulky art supplies like sewing machine, easels or printing press, which puts a limit on the activities we can conduct.” Simple facilities like sinks and storage spaces are also missing from most classrooms, making art events less likely to occur and potentially destructive for existing facilities.
The pursuit of a dedicated art space was spearheaded by Dr. Savvas Verdis, a senior educator at LSE. Motivated by his personal large scale art project, he wishes to reintroduce a shared art space on campus that can be used by both students and staff — a facility that had been available 20 years ago. Understanding that an art space may not be a core priority, Dr. Verdis, alongside other LSE creative representatives, have been in regular contact with the LSE Estates team to secure excess spaces in basements and storage areas.
The issue of inadequate spaces for artists at LSE extends beyond visual artists and crafters. A member of the LSESU Drama Society commented that due to competition for spacious venues, they have to “do the majority of (their) rehearsals in classrooms with minimal space to move about”, and performance venues are “not a blank canvas, so (sets) always looks a bit off and very amateur, which is a shame.”
Nancy Baltouna recommended that LSE creatives provide greater detail on the demand and requirements for the art space to build a compelling case for approval by the Estates Management Board (EMB). The LSESU Creative Network has since been expanding the scale of involvement for this project. They’ve engaged with representatives of creative communities to connect students, staff, and the Students’ Union with the EMB, in hopes of making this art space a reality.
An LSE spokesperson commented, “Although as a social science institution we do not teach arts or music at LSE, we have a vibrant cultural side and fully support and encourage students to pursue an interest in the arts. LSE is located in a high rent area with limited space but we have many areas that can be used for the arts including an arts rehearsal space and a music practice room in the Marshall Building.
“Some of the activities available around campus include arts exhibitions hosted in the Atrium Gallery, lunchtime concerts, the LSE choir and orchestra, photo competitions, and LSE Chill, a free performance night hosted by LSE Arts for poets, comedians, musicians and other performers.
“We welcome initiatives from students to help facilitate creative activities on campus and employ an LSE Arts Assistant who is keen to engage with the LSESU on arts related activities.”
Photograph from Pexels