About

This site is run by Jonathan Orlek. I have introduced the term ‘artist-led housing’ to refer to the provision of housing by an artist-led organisation.

Artist-led Housing:

Artist-led housing projects allow artists to be resident within neighbourhoods for extended periods of time, creating opportunities for occupants to act as engaged residents within local communities as well as practicing artists. Additionally, an integration of alternative/experimental forms of living into artistic work is often actively supported, for example through live/work spatial arrangements, sharing economies, the provision of a basic stipend irrespective of formal creative outputs, or the accommodation of atypical family units.

Artist-led housing projects have hosted writers, performers, architects, artists, sociologists and researchers, amongst others. While some residents within artist-led housing projects would explicitly articulate their practice as socially engaged art, as a way to emphasise the use of social relations and participatory processes in their work, others have engaged communities in debates, participatory practices and urban interventions more obliquely. A commonality which connects artist-led housing practices across artforms and disciplines is the development of situated and site-responsive practices which would otherwise be precluded by the separation of space and contexts in which to live (long-term) and work.

Researching Artist-led Housing:

I am undertaking a collaborative PhD between East Street Arts and the School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Huddersfield. This research project is concerned with the provision of housing by artist-led organisations. It is also an embedded ethnographic study of a particular house called Artist House 45, located in South Leeds. Artist House 45 is a pilot project which has been set up and managed by the artist-led organisation East Street Arts.

I argue that artist-led organisations are conceiving of housing projects as both collective artworks and interventions within the housing market and sector. As such, artist-led organisations are occupying roles which differ from those of other ‘alternative’ housing practices such as community-led housing. Artist-led housing doesn’t nest easily within pre-existing participatory models or coalesce into a coherent housing movement with shared characteristics, demands and goals. In response to this, I have developed new strategies, rooted in and among the day-to-day processes of artist-led organisations, for communicating, translating and scaling artist-led housing. This has involved the use of collaborative mapping and ‘multivoice’ writing. By adopting multiple research positions in relation to Artist House 45, I have sought to critique the project from different, and competing perspectives. This ‘moving in and out’ has involved changing my physical proximity to the house (i.e. from library-based study to literally moving in to live in Artist House 45 as a Researcher in Residence). It has also meant moving between different ethnographic methods and writing styles. Through embedded ethnography, I have been able to feed research back to East Street Arts quickly, allowing responsive interventions to be made while Artist House 45 was unfolding.

I am also a director of Studio Polpo, a social enterprise architecture collective based in Sheffield and an associate lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University.