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Explore your creativity in Britain’s Ocean City

Plymouth could seem to some like a sleepy city on the coast, but look a little closer and you'll find a thriving art scene from contemporary art galleries to large scale installations of public art.

Over the years, Plymouth has been home to legendary artists such as Beryl Cook and Robert Lenkiewicz, with a thriving art scene to this day. Plymouth College of Art houses a well-established independent art gallery and independent arthouse cinema, often working in partnership with a variety of art organisations and community projects, providing opportunities for students, artists and creators. Plymouth also boasts a number of public art installations throughout the city and paired with the stunning surrounding countryside, green spaces and beaches, there are countless sources of inspiration to be found in and around Britain’s Ocean City.

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Torsten Lauschmann’s ‘War of the Corners’ in MIRROR at Plymouth College of Art

MIRROR is a public gallery, events programme and online resource based out of Plymouth College of Art’s Tavistock Place campus. It features a high-quality contemporary arts programme of exhibitions and events, drawing from the incredible resources of knowledge, skills and access to the world class facilities and equipment within the college. MIRROR offers students real world experiences of working in a gallery context as well as encourages the wider general public to enjoy and debate contemporary arts. Keep an eye on the MIRROR website for updates on upcoming exhibitions and events.

Originally based on Looe Street, the city’s only independent arts cinema, Plymouth Arts Cinema, is now based at our Tavistock Place campus. The cinema is open to the public and boasts an 118-seat auditorium, a state-of-the-art sound system and cinema screen. Showcasing a hand-picked selection of arthouse, foreign language and modern classic films, Plymouth Arts Cinema is also responsible for the city’s Open Air Cinema, screening films in venues such as Tinside Lido and the National Marine Aquarium. Keep up to date with the latest movies showing at the cinema by checking their website.

Just around the corner in Plymouth’s historic Royal William Yard, Ocean Studios is a co-working hub, exhibition space and a public café and courtyard, home to a collective of resident artists. Offering workshops and events with local artists, Ocean Studios regularly collaborates with the local arts community, including art events organised by students from the college.

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‘I Am Your Voice’ by Claire Fontaine for We The People Are The Work at KARST in 2017

KARST was founded in 2012 by artists inspired by the British Art Show 7 who wanted to develop an artist-led space in Plymouth to produce and show the best international contemporary art. Since then, KARST has fast become one of the most exciting galleries in the South West, with a reputation for edgy, dynamic and challenging exhibitions. Nestled in an industrial estate in Stonehouse, KARST has played host to the likes of We The People Are The Work and Plymouth Contemporary, as well as accommodating Plymouth College of Art alumni residencies and offering interning opportunities to students.

A stone’s throw from Plymouth College of Art, The Box is the new home for Plymouth’s museum and city archives, housing seven large-scale permanent galleries, including collections from the South West Film and Television Archive. The Box not only offers a great day out discovering ancient artefacts, local history and natural science, it also embraces the local creative community, working with students at the college from photographing and archiving collections to analysing and responding to artefacts.

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‘Messenger’ by Joseph Hillier situated outside Theatre Royal Plymouth

Plymouth is home to more public art installations that you’d probably realise. Coming in at a huge seven metres tall, 'Messenger’ by Cornish artist Joseph Hillier is situated outside Theatre Royal Plymouth and is believed to be the largest sculpture in the country made using the lost wax casting process. The monumental piece was inspired by the movements of actor Nicola Kavanagh as she posed waiting to go on stage for a performance of Othello at the theatre in 2014. Out on Plymouth’s Hoe shorefront is Angel of the North creator Antony Gormley’s ‘LOOK II’, a metal figure made from 22 pieces of stacked cast iron. Looking over water, the foreboding statue aims to evoke the yearning of travel across the horizon it watches.

Plymouth Artists Together is a Facebook group for local artists who want to get involved with the local community and transform unloved and neglected spaces throughout the city. Encouraging people to show off their artistic skills, projects of Plymouth Artists Together include the Random Art Corner, which turned a demolition site into a makeshift art gallery, as well as helping find artists for Cliik Community’s BT Box project, where local artists transformed boring BT boxes into exciting pieces of public art. Keep up to date with upcoming projects on the Plymouth Artists Together Facebook group.

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Union Corner on Union Street by MA Drawing student Will Luz & artist Stephen Smith of Neasden Control Centre. Photo by Dom Moore.

The creativity of Plymouth also spills out over the walls and buildings of the city. Union Street connects the city centre to Royal William Yard and is a local hub of creativity and community. Union Corner at 96 Union Street transformed its building with a 13 metre tall colourful mural, with a little help from MA Drawing student Will Luz. Featuring geometric shapes, faces and symbols, the bright and bold mural is meant to represent support, togetherness, respect and community. Down the road in Stonehouse, Cliik Community has been working with local artists to add murals to parks in the area and buildings nearby. Head down to areas near North Road West to find murals of local history, street art and large-scale graffiti pieces.