As one of Cardiff’s biggest hubs for freelance artists closes, Culture editor Amy Pay documents Morgan Arcade Studios’ short history and questions the future for creatives in Cardiff
Next time you walk through town, let your eyes drift. Take in the structure of the buildings, look up to see what occupies the floors above the shops and observe our city properly. Until the beginning of this month, you may have seen Morgan Arcade Studios, nestled away upstairs in, you guessed it, Morgan Arcade.
Morgan Arcade Studios opened in 2011, first housing office space. It expanded upwards after illustrator Daniel Hamilton braved a risky financial move to rent the second floor. Hamilton split the floor into sections and rented out each of the spaces to Cardiff-based creatives at reasonable rates, uniting artists, including himself, with like-minded people in a shared location.
The friendly atmosphere, bright from big windows and given character from original fittings and exposed floorboards, housed a creative collective of freelance individuals including fine artists, large-scale painters, computer-based designers, journalists and illustrators. With room for just over twenty people, it is no wonder the waiting list for a six-month residency in such a hub surpassed 100 names.
If you walk into town and look up now, though, Morgan Arcade Studios as previously described no longer exists. You may see signs for the ‘Creative Quarter’ in its shadow, a refurbished workspace that is perhaps swankier than its former incarnation yet, as is always the case, costs a lot more to rent out. The landlord will have increased rent moneys coming in, becoming one example of economic survival in Cardiff, and there will hopefully still be creative people using the space, something positive considering the government’s cuts to culture funding in Wales.
Unfortunately, though, the four-fold increase in rent has forced Morgan Arcade Studios’ established artists out in the cold with nowhere to prop their easels, sketching desks and laptops. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, another creative haven with affordable rents, suitable workspace and an understanding of the artist’s way of life will open up in Cardiff once more. In the meantime, the twenty-something MAS workers are back to the drawing board, trying to make do in makeshift spaces, bedrooms, studies, garages, anywhere they can make their ideas come to life. People like Hamilton’s colleagues are crucial in keeping Cardiff alive as a vibrant, growing, fun and productive city. Let’s hope our creatives find new homes within the city soon.