IT may look like an ordinary house from the outside, but on the inside you’ll find a haven for artists and art lovers.
Padma Rao has transformed her home into a sanctuary for artists from around the world.
South Shields-based Arts Connect UK has workspaces and gallery space which artists can use to forge a relationship with the local community.
Mum-of-two Padma is inviting fellow creative people from across the world to stay at the studio as an artist-in-residence.
The 52-year-old, originally from India, said: “I’ve been an artist throughout my life and I’ve been painting since I was a child. I was working as a diversity officer for Arts Council England when I got this idea.”
Padma was carrying out a four-month placement in India when she wondered what it would be like to bring artists from around the globe into the local community in South Shields.
Padma, who moved to England when she was 19 years old, is director of Arts Connect UK and runs the studio alongside colleague Steve Donkin.
She said: “I want to bring art to the people because it is for everyone.
“People can sometimes feel a little intimidated by going into a big gallery, but now they can visit a home that doubles as a studio and it feels very relaxed.
“I want artists to come and stay with me and I’ve already been talking to people from places like America who are very interested. I want to see how an artist’s presence in the community can impact on people.”
Padma has already seen her idea come to life.
She said: “When I got this idea, I had a joiner, named Brian Denyer come in to help transform my home.
“He loved the idea straight away, and because he’d never been to a gallery before, he went out and visited some to get ideas.
“He would ring me up and tell me about the visits he’d made and it was so brilliant that he did that – it’s what Arts Connect UK is all about.
“Sadly he passed away in February, but I plan to name one of the rooms in the studio after him as a tribute to him and the work he did.”
Padma added: “There is a big artistic identity in this area, with places like the Customs House and the museums, so I think it will be fantastic from artists around the world to come and visit.
“I’ve had interest from a glass artist in New York, been speaking to the National Glass Centre, and a print maker from India. The artists will stay here and work within the community.
“The idea is for local schools and community groups to come in and watch the artists working and be able to ask them questions along the way.”
Padma is calling the space Makaan, which is Hindi for house.
Local artists, including Steve Cunningham and Chun Chao, have temporarily donated pieces of artwork on display and Padma hopes that other emerging artists and people fresh from university will do the same.
The first is set to run on Monday, September 16, from 11am to 3pm.
The session, called Locating Colour, will be run by Helen Baker, whose exhibition Raw Colour is currently on display at the Customs House, in Mill Dam, South Shields.
It costs £5. Anyone interested in taking part should call Padma on 07930 175319.
Artists will have to apply for a residency.
n To find out more about Arts Connect UK, or to book a visit for a community group, people can go to http://artsconnectuk.wordpress.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org