Camden Arts Centre is situated at the corner of Arkwright Road and Finchley Road, NW3 in a Grade II listed premises, constructed as Hampstead Central Library and designed by the architect Arnold Taylor. The building was opened in 1897 by its benefactor Sir Henry Harben, then Deputy Chairman of the Prudential Assurance Company. The Victorian structure funded by Harben survived World War II, despite hits by enemy incendiary bombs in 1940 and the blast from a V2 rocket in 1945.
The library grew in size and was extended in the 1920s, however by 1964 a new facility opened in Swiss Cottage which was better able to cope with the demands of the modern library service and all stock was transferred to it.
Hampstead Arts Centre (renamed Camden Arts Centre in 1967) was created in 1965 providing the local community with classes in painting, life drawing, pottery, printing and basic design. The building’s integral qualities of simplicity, space and light were ideal for the showing of art and the first exhibition was held a year after the Centre was established. Inevitably, the site soon became a focal point for artists living locally.
Since the sixties, the artistic and education programmes at Camden Arts Centre have developed dramatically. Jenni Lomax OBE, who was Director Camden Arts Centre from 1990 to 2017 established the Centre’s internationally acclaimed programme of exhibitions, residencies, artists’ projects and public events and led the organisation through a major building refurbishment scheme that was completed in early 2004 by Tony Fretton Architects.
Camden Arts Centre at 50
In 2015/16 Camden Arts Centre celebrated its 50th birthday. The Centre has become an internationally renowned art space, continually recognised for excellence in education alongside a forward thinking, ambitious exhibitions programme housed in a Grade II listed building in North London. We are proud to be a place where art is made as well as seen, our commitment to this evidenced in our long-established residency programme and in the working studios, where people of all ages can exercise their own creativity in courses, schools days and education projects.
To mark the anniversary, we presentedfive lectures looking back on the important role public institutions, such as Camden Arts Centre, have played in making art accessible for everyone, fostering careers of artists and showcasing challenging work over 50 years. In association with the lecture series, we are publishing a special anniversary publication reflecting on these talks and similar themes written by experts in the respective fields. Read more about the talk series here.
In summer 2015 we launched our Online Archive, presenting images, texts and multimedia materials detailing our work with artists over the years and highlighting recurring themes which have peppered the programme over the years.
On Sunday 13 September we opened the studio doors to let people of all ages experience activities from the artist-led education programme we are so proud of. Read more about our 50th anniversary Summer Takeoverhere.
During this celebratory year we also launched our Youth Collective, working with young people aged 15- 25 years, and we worked with new archive volunteers from the local area to sustain the future of our archive. Read more about our Living Archive Project here.
Front cover of the catalogue for Abstract Sculpture, 1968