Art and design graduates are the first residents at Creative Business Hub

Five recent graduates from a leading specialist art and design college are the new business tenants at an innovative workspace developed to boost the creative industry in the north east.

The artists and designers from Cleveland College of Art Design (CCAD) are now commercial residents of the Creative Hub within the Hartlepool Enterprise Centre – developed in partnership with the college and Hartlepool Borough Council.

Alan Vest, Mae Owens, Sophie Babur-Puplett and Callum Griffiths were all students on the Illustration for Commercial Application course at the college and graduated in July this year. Joining them is photographer Rachel Deakin, who graduated with a first class degree in photography last month, and photographer Emma Scott, who graduated in 2000 and now runs Inspired Portraits.

The Creative Hub consists of studio spaces for creative business, with a wide range of benefits including a single weekly charge of £25, furniture, easy terms and access to business planning, marketing and mentoring support. The workspace, which will also serve as a gallery space with original artworks and commissions available to purchase directly from the artists, forms part of long term collaboration between CCAD and Hartlepool Council around supporting creative business development in the town and across the region.

Illustrator Alan Vest, 22 from Eaglescliffe in Stockton-on-Tees, has already had his first brush with success as an illustrator for a weekly column in The Guardian, as well as recently featuring as a ‘rising star’ in the top ten graduates by Creative Review with his work showcased on digital screens all over the UK.

On joining the Creative Hub, he said: “It’s brilliant to have the opportunity to move in to a creative space straight after graduating. We’re all really happy to be working in a creative environment and we’re looking forward to collaborating, hosting exhibitions and selling work together.”

Sophie Babur-Puplett, 21 from Newham Grange Park in Stockton is a mixed media illustrator, pushing the boundaries between digital and traditional illustration, and is looking forward to working alongside her former classmates. She said: “It’s fantastic because we all studied together in the same room at CCAD and are great friends, and now work collaboratively in the hub. We go to events, exhibition and festivals as a collective which helps with costs and developing networks and contacts, and if we know a client who needs a particular style or piece of work that one of the team can do, we will pass it on.

“The Creative Hub really helps when you are starting up, as traditionally when you finish university and go home for the summer, you don’t really keep up with work but now we have somewhere where we can be creative in a professional environment, and can access the space late or weekends for deadlines.”

Mae Owen, 22 originally from Cattal in York, lived in Hartlepool during her studies and has now made the town the location of her business. Specialising in illustration, upcycling and textiles, Mae said: “The front part of the studio is gallery and shop, with our work on show and ready to sell to the public. At the back is our work space, which is similar to how we worked in university, so it has been a smooth transition from study to work. Moving into the Creative Hub has been really exciting. I also have a day job to support myself so I come here and really appreciate the creative space.”

CCAD, which prides itself on its commitment to graduate employability, is supporting the fledgling businesses by subsidising the costs of studio space, as well as helping in the management and promotion of the centre.

The college was recently rated top in the region and fifth in the UK overall for graduate success, and joint number one in the country for art and design graduate employability, with 96.6 percent of 2014 CCAD graduates either in employment or doing further study.

Patrick Chapman, Head of Employability and External Relations at CCAD, said: “The Creative Hub has been developed in response to demand for creative workspace in Hartlepool, and in collaboration with Hartlepool Council. The successful opening forms part of the build up to the opening of the workspace on Whitby Street, therefore creating further demand for the business centre when it opens.

“Having promoted this opportunity proactively with our graduates, we are delighted to see our former students in residence for the launch of the Hub and on their way to successful careers. We are committed to working to support our graduates in developing their work, business ideas and market, and taking the first step into a successful business. This is a demonstration of what we mean when we say that CCAD is for people who are serious about creative careers.”