STEAMhouse co-founders Ruth Claxton and Alessandro Columbano, talk through the journey from an idea to establish production space for local creatives, to the opening of STEAMhouse – a 1400sqm facility in the centre of Digbeth. They’ll discuss the ups and downs of the process and how they used different tools and networks to build the communities of interest and partnerships needed to realise this ambitious project, and will explore what they learnt along the way, touching on some of the innovative outcomes, emerging from STEAMhouse.
Ruth Claxton is an Artist. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally by galleries and projects including Ikon Gallery, Site Santa Fe, Spike Island, Whitechapel Gallery, Situations and the Guangzhou Triennial. She has work in the Arts Council Collection, and in 2012 she won the Arts Foundation’s Yoma Sasburg Sculpture Fellowship. She is a founding Director of Eastside Projects where she works alongside Gavin Wade to lead the organisation and has co-curated projects including Sculpture Show (2009), Achaintre, Barker, Channer (2012), Samara Scott: Silks (2015), Birmingham Show (2015), Production Show (2016-18) and mix rice: Migrating Flavours (2018).
In 2014 she initiated research that led to the Birmingham Production Space proposal (2015), which outlined an ambitious proposition for a new, large scale, national centre for the production of art and design. Many of these ideas have been realised through STEAMhouse, a new £3.5million centre for cross sector, interdisciplinary collaborative and creative innovation, developed in partnership with Birmingham City University and funded by ERDF and Arts Council England, which opened in Birmingham in 2018. As STEAMhouse Creative Director she leads the Open Route which supports artists and other creative makers to test and make new work and develop their practice and career.
Senior Lecturer at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design
Alessandro is a Senior Lecturer at the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, Birmingham City University. He co-established and leads the Collaborative Laboratory (Co.LAB) a design and research initiative within the school that integrates teaching with practice through live projects, staff research and design consultancy.
He graduated from the Manchester School of Architecture with a distinction in both postgraduate architecture and MA Urbanism prior to developing his portfolio as an independent artist/designer. Prior to becoming an academic, Alessandro worked in architecture and research practices in Manchester and London with experience in evidence-based architectural research consultancy and heritage renovation projects.
Co.LAB jointly won a National Urban Design Award for the Knowledge Hub masterplan and a Biffa award for the design of Birmingham Open Media (BOM Gallery). He has recently joined the Birmingham City Council’s Planning Design and Conservation Review Panel and sits on the board for Centrala gallery.