We are East Street Arts

It all started in 1993 with two artists who couldn’t find the support and infrastructure they needed to develop their art practice.

From that East Street Arts was born and we have worked to secure better livelihoods for artists and our neighbours and address issues of economic and commercial decline in towns and cities.


Since becoming a charity in 1998, we have become leaders in the artist-led sector by empowering artists to be self-determined, take control, incite change and influence decision-makers to improve people’s lives and environments.

Working from the grass roots up, we value talent, ambition and innovation from a position of inclusivity and opportunity.

We work within a broad definition of visual arts that includes traditional disciplines of painting and sculpture, and more specifically public art, socially-engaged practice, crafts and digital (including film, sound and radio). We work to ensure on-going professional support is available for working artists.

Our reach is international, with us developing activities with partners nationally and across Europe, with new relationships currently being developed further afield

By 1999, we had secured capital support from Arts Council England, Leeds City Council and European Regional Development Fund to purchase and refurbish St Patrick’s Social Club in the East of the city. The completion of Patrick Studios in 2004 gave us stability and a bespoke venue to operate from offering artists warm, clean and accessible studios and a large open project space.

The charity is governed by a voluntary board of committed trustees with skills and experiences that meet the needs of our artists and audiences including property, planning, governance, education, marketing and finance. We are led by two Directors and co-founders: Karen Watson and Jon Wakeman who are supported by a range of members of staff. Every year, we hire a range of freelance contractors (artists and project support workers), and host placements and apprentices and four collaborative PhD’s.

Our interventions in art, education, the environment, public spaces and regeneration projects support artists and communities to force positive change and think differently about models and ethics of working and living.


Patrick Studios (Leeds) artistic directors Karen Watson and Jon Wakeman, along with artist in residence, Pippa Hale, stand in the Project Space currently showing work by Les Biggs of Coal Salt Tin.
Picture: Lorne Campbell/Guzelian


Drawing on our vast experience we now work across artist spaces, artist support, art events, enterprise and hospitality locally, nationally and internationally.

To get a picture of East Street Arts, look at our exciting and diverse current activities, like Season for Change, a programme working with four artists to engage neighbours, visitors and participants in issues of climate change.

Or our second Art Hostel, with 17 new artist and designer commissions bringing the hostel to life for a unique experience for travels. The Holy Art Grail, offers a weekly professional development and social session for five mid-career and established artists.

The SSO-funded artist support project Guild is holding the Guild Conversations series of online workshops (currently having reached 300 people) and Guild Accelerate supporting five emerging and diverse-led arts organisations.

This is just a fragment of how our wide-reaching projects fulfill our vision and mission statement to harness the power of art and artists for positive change.

To take a role in the development of a city that doesn’t displace people who live and work there. The Directors; East Street Arts

Our roots are firmly planted in the Mabgate, Burmantofts and Lincoln Green areas of Leeds. Our regeneration work in the area is on-going, placing art right at the heart of the community.  We have recently purchased and converted the Convent next door to Patrick Studios into Convention House – a new venue for artists and audiences to explore technology, art and the environment, and also purchased the old presbytery and this will open as the permanent home for our Art Hostel, a 60 bed venue in 2021.

Looking outward we have initiated and are supporting a Neighbourhood Plan for the area conscious of the encroaching growing city and the dangers of re-gentrification.

The development of our studios, facilities and project spaces includes Union 105 in Chapeltown, Barkston Studios in Holbeck and Leeds Print Workshop at Patrick Studios. Supporting a community of hundreds of artists and creative businesses. We want to see them continue to thrive and engage with city developments and aspirations. As such, they significantly contribute to the economic and social capital and identity of Leeds.


Our starting point will always be artists, as we believe they have the talent, energy, ideas and determination to change our worlds. We underpin all our work with artists support programmes including our SSO funded project Guild.

We raise funds for and initiate an on-going range of projects that support locally based artists. Bringing artists from all over the world to Leeds through commissions, residencies, and events.

These activities position artists, young people and neighbours in taking an active role to: 

  • Effect change in the places they live and work.
  • Intervene in the power of hierarchies, subjective judgements and distribution of wealth.
  • Take a role in the development of a city that doesn’t displace people who live and work there