Work to build a “game-changing” creative hub in Inverness which will house dozens of artists is set to begin.
The initial £1.2 million project is the first phase of a wider £5.7m scheme aimed at transforming the city’s Midmills buildings into a new Inverness Creative Academy.
Work on one building, which will provide workspaces for 39 artists and makers, is expected to start early in 2018 and be complete by the summer. Wasps Artists Studios, the project leader, is also fundraising for work on a second building which would offer exhibition, performance and events space, a public café, workshop areas and offices for businesses active in the creative sector.
The news has been welcomed by leaders in the local arts community.
Lindsay Dunbar, of rural theatre innovators Play Pieces Arts, said: “I really welcome the exciting development of the Creative Academy.
“Play Pieces Arts has run a successful programme of events in Inverness throughout the years.
“However, we are often placed in a vulnerable position due to venue availability as well as limited capacity spaces.
“The creative industry hub, as well as potential performance space, would be a game-changer for not only Play Pieces Arts but for the emerging and established makers of all art forms who want to base themselves in the Highlands.”
Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive officer, said the new hub would boost Scotland’s growing reputation as a centre for the arts.
She said: “Scotland is a powerhouse for the arts, craft making and the wider creative industries.
“But people wanting careers, or to build businesses, in these sectors have faced major obstacles in the Highlands because of an acute shortage of quality workspace and of hubs that allow them to collaborate and generate new ideas.
“The Creative Academy has a great deal of support from the large creative community in and around Inverness.”
She added: “We are very proud that this will be one of the largest projects of its kind in the whole of Scotland and we hope it will enable creative people from all across the Highlands fulfil their ambitions and dreams.”
The project is being supported by organisations including Highland Council and Creative Scotland.