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Eagle Works Visual Arts Group


Eagle Works, Alexandra Street
Eagle Works, Alexandra Street

An introduction to Eagle Works

By Ciarán Ryan
For 21 years a dilapidated former mattress factory in Wolverhampton has been a haven for the Black Country’s modern artists. We paid them a visit.


In the summer of 1984 Fine Art students from Wolverhampton Polytechnic cycled the length and breadth of Wolverhampton. They were looking for a building that they could use as a group studio.

They eventually settled upon the Eagle Works in Alexander Street, Graiseley, Wolverhampton – a  three storey semi-derelict Victorian industrial building with smashed windows and a friendly landlord.

Artists in the Eagle Works kitchen
Artists in the Eagle Works kitchen

Wolverhampton’s Heritage and History Society believe that before falling into disuse and disrepair, the building was used as a mattress factory, a bicycle factory, and a brass and gun metal foundry.

Assisted by small grants from the Arts Council, the Eagle Works Visual Arts Group converted the shell of a building into individual studio spaces. In 1987 they opened a gallery at Eagle Works where they exhibit their work.

EAGLE WORKS VISUAL ARTS GROUP

In 2005, the building provides working space for 18 local, mostly “research based”, contemporary artists. There’s a waiting list of artists who’d like a studio at Eagle Works.

The Eagle Works building
The Eagle Works building

George Holt, Simon Francis, Simon Harris, Sylbert Bolton, Jane O’Reilly, Derek Jones, Julie McNally-Hayes, John Hampton, Knighton Hosking, David Smith, Rupert Miles Smithson, James Millichamp, Jain McKay, Dave Hilliard, Giancarlo Facchinetti, Maggie Walker and Rosemary Terry are the emerging and established contemporary artists who work from the building at present.

Although the members of the Eagle Works Visual Arts Group mostly produce abstract paintings, name a style, a medium or a concept and someone in the group will be working in that area. Apart from painting, the Eagle Works group also produces sculpture, conceptual art, montage and video installation.

Although the group has produced no household names so far, it is a respected studio. Eagle Works artists have received public commissions. Their work is collected.

In 2005, the gallery space at Eagle Works held ten exhibitions of the group’s work. They’re planning a new exhibition programme for 2006, possibly a series of dual shows.

Painter Simon Harris, in his studio
Painter Simon Harris, in his studio

“It must be one of the most stable and long lasting artists’ studios in the whole country.” says sculptor Rosemary Terry, who’s worked from the building for nearly 20 years. 

“When the place started up people tended to come for a year or two and then move on elsewhere. I think we have a population of artists now who are settled in the area because they have jobs, they work here, or maybe they’re even retired – so that’s one reason why the place is still here.”

“We’ve been around a long time. We have, often, advertised nationally in the past. We’ve had national and international artists showing in our gallery in the past.

“I don’t think any of us would regard ourselves as commercial artists. If we do sell work that’s a good by-product of our practice. This is space to work and is also space to fraternise with other artists, be able to operate collectively and have group shows.

Detail from a Simon Harris painting
Detail from a Simon Harris painting

“We’re all modern artists because we all live now. We’re definitely not chocolate box artists, and we wouldn’t necessarily encourage chocolate box artists or people who make landscapes paintings to come here. And I don’t think they’d want to either, because it’s a pretty basic building.

“It’s cold it’s damp – but because it’s [Eagle Works] an industrial building there’s 24 hour access, people can make as much noise and mess as they want to, in the course of producing work – so, from that point of view it’s just right for fine artists.”

Entry to the Eagle Works building is by invitation only.
Telephone 01902 425958 or email eagle@eagleworks.org.uk for more information.

last updated: 09/12/05
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ben holt
i used to love that building as a kid my grandad did too sadly missed nice to see it on the web

Jamila Walker
I am a photography and would love to come visit ur studios some time. my email address is jamila_walker@yahoo.co.uk. thank you for your time

Maggie Walker
Hi all, It is good to read the latest update and to be kept in touch with by Simon. I need to come in and work soon but I find my studio depressing after all that has happened! Is there anyone who wants to talk about swapping studios with me ? I miss the old building and my finger nails are too clean! Cheers for Christmas and the New Year. Is it really twenty years Rose??

Vivienne
These are great innovotive artists - catch them while u can - eat your heart out Charles Saatchi if you miss them!

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