One thing is for sure about the art scene in Leeds: it’s great for those times when you are craving creative inspiration, but are limited by your lack of cash. Leeds boasts an abundance of independent, non-profit art spaces in settings ranging from cafes to abandoned warehouses. So here's the low-down on the most innovative and obscure galleries that the city has to offer.
1. The Gallery at Munro House
The Gallery is an opulent gem located on the periphery of the city center. Run by Central St. Martins graduates Ellie Halls Schiadas and Matthew Andrews, this enchanting art space hosts exhibitions from a broad range of creative mediums including photography, painting, sculpture, animation, performance, and graphic design. It features both budding and established artists from an array of genres, most recently becoming the exhibition space for ‘MACP’, a project run by the Leeds College of Art MA students.
One of the ways in which The Gallery is funded (as it receives no public money, nor any dollar from the Arts Council) is through the in-house establishment Cafe 164, which is pretty much another gallery in itself. With walls plastered in works from local talent, Cafe 164 alone is worth a visit, boasting a cosy yet buzzing atmosphere and a scrummy menu that includes organic fair-trade coffee, speciality teas from the Brew Tea Co., cakes from That Old Chestnut, and a whole lot of veggie and vegan stuff too.
Munro House, York Street, Leeds, LS9 8AG. Tel: 01132433266
2. Sunny Bank Mills Art Space
Sunny Bank is a beautiful gallery housed in the former cloth warehouse of the landmark Sandsgate building. Despite being part of Leeds’ infamous industrial heritage, and featuring art that is purposefully ‘accessible’ to anyone, this art space is pretty unknown to most. This is a great shame, because it really is visually breath-taking. Embedded into the walls of the gallery are eleven 9ft high windows, which flood the space with a natural, golden light. As if the art itself isn’t spectacle enough, this effect certainly adds a layer of awe onto an already wonderful experience.
Through a newly restored 1920s entrance on Farsley Town Street, you can enter this 3500 square foot studio and be amazed at the variety and scale of visual arts exhibitions that take place here. The studio hosts photography, art, and sculpture events, as well as workshops where members of the public can get involved with making their own art. Upcoming showcases include ‘Presence’ from Aire Valley Arts Group, and a pop-up theatre and music event by the Trouble At Mill Group.
Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, Pudsey, West Yorkshire, LS28 5UJ. Tel: 0113 256 3239
3. Mexico Project Space
Mexico Project Space is a small gallery run by 10 artistic individuals, who work collectively on curatorial exhibitions featuring contemporary aesthetics. You can find it at the Wharf Chambers, a multi-use, non-profit, really bloody cool venue situated just by Leeds canal. This gallery boasts a stylish, sublime setting, and a wide range of local art to see. Just like Sunny Bank, Mexico is little-known because of its general lack of advertising and press, but this does not mean it should be overlooked; frankly the opposite. It hosts excellent, ground-breaking exhibitions and its list of contributing artists is vastly impressive. If you call yourself an art-lover, you will not want to miss this space.
Mexico Project Space, 25 Wharf Chambers, Wharf Street, Leeds, LS2 7EQ. Tel: 07761071234
4. Enjoy Art Space
Enjoy Art Space is an artist-lead and artist-funded venue for exhibitions and performances. This avant-garde studio space, located just a 5 minute walk away from Leeds City Bus Station, focuses on creating an interactive and provocative environment. The exhibitions here in this intimate gallery beg to be engaged with, rather than merely viewed. Often featuring work of a more experimental nature, the key aim of this space is to exist as a place of creative refuge for local talent and regional artists. There is always space to rent here, as well as the chance to get involved with various projects and events.
This free gallery, run by Kayleigh Morris and Rian Treanor, was established in 2008-2009 as the result of a series of Leeds-based experimental art events. [Think this is a repeat.] Upcoming events include ‘Bring About the Prattle’, an evening of spoke word poetry, performance, and live music, and ‘Imagined Heights’, a multi-sensory art event held in total darkness.
Enjoy Art Space, Unit 22B, Mabgate, Leeds, LS9 7DZ
5. Project Space Leeds at The Tetley
As the name suggests, The Tetley is housed in the former art deco headquarters of the Tetley Brewery, which is now a centre for contemporary art and learning. The brain-child of Fine Art graduates from the University of Leeds, Kerry Harker and Pippa Hale, Project Space Leeds is a contemporary arts and education charity founded in 2006. Originally located in the Whitehall Waterfront building, PSL relocated to The Tetley Brewery in August 2013. It is a truly charming venue which not only offers exhibition space for ultramodern visual art, but also boasts a delectable bar and kitchen, with a Yorkshire-inspired menu. Really, you’d come just for the sake of having pints of Tetley’s tea and a Tetley’s battered fish and chips in an old Tetley’s brewery, right? (PS also caters for veggies and vegans!)
Upcoming events include ‘20th Anniversary Children’s Charity Calendar Exhibition’, a competition encouraging young artists to paint a picture of their favorite month of the year, and ‘Some Women, Other Women and all the Bittermen’, a multi-channel video by Rehana Zaman that examines the role of the workers under global capitalism.
Project Space Leeds, Tetley Building, Hunslet Road, Leeds, LS1 1OG. Tel: 0793 023 6383