The London School of Mosaic is an initiative of Southbank Mosaics.
Southbank Mosaics is a non-profit social enterprise based in the crypt of St. John’s Church near London’s Southbank. Established in 2004, it houses a thriving creative hub and mosaic gallery, as well as a small sculpture park in the garden outside. Southbank Mosaics runs an open studio where volunteers and members of the public can learn about mosaic design and help with creating public realm art works, and offers a variety of courses, some of which are accredited through the National Open College Network. As part of its social mission it also actively works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, children and adults with disabilities or mental health problems and young offenders coming through the local Youth Offending Services, giving marginalised members of society a way to positively transform their lives.
The work created by artists, volunteers and beneficiaries of Southbank Mosaics’ social programmes has helped to revive and regenerate public spaces, leaving a positive, long-lasting mark on the local environment. Since opening in 2004, Southbank Mosaics has created over 300 installations scattered around central London, such as the impressive Blake’s Lambeth – a series of 70 mosaics based on the words and paintings of William Blake, installed into the railway tunnels of Waterloo Station. To complete this project, Southbank Mosaics artists worked with 300 volunteers over a period of seven years.
After running for 12 years and establishing its reputation, which has resulted in commissions from TFL, London Authority and The City of London, Southbank Mosaics was keen on expanding the scale of its artistic and educational activity. Drawing on its professional expertise, it concluded the best way to achieve this was to establish the London School of Mosaic, a small educational institute that will offer the world’s first degree in mosaic art.
The London School of Mosaic will draw on the technical skill and artistry developed within Southbank Mosaics and blend this with an academic programme designed in collaboration with experts in mosaic art from King’s College London and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Although the two entities would operate independently, the cross-pollination between them will markedly increase their joint artistic and social impact, none the least by encouraging enrolled students to volunteer at Southbank Mosaics’ studio at St John’s Crypt. The London School of Mosaic has identified a prospective venue for the courses and the £600,000 Arts Impact Fund loan is contingent on them acquiring a long leasehold on the property from the local authority.
On an organisational level, this is an opportunity for the company to build its balance sheet with a long leasehold asset and develop new income streams from the degree and diploma-level courses the school would offer. From an artistic impact perspective, establishing a school would have positive effect on the development of mosaic art and the preservation of mosaic heritage across England and beyond. It will also contribute to the educational attainment and professional development of mosaics artists, who currently lack opportunities to study mosaics in Higher Education and need to supplement their training through other means, mostly self-education or voluntary work at established studios.
This is an ambitious initiative that required the Arts Impact Fund to model various scenarios to determine the potential financial risks. The team also considered the feasibility of obtaining academic accreditation and the likely demand for tuition in a currently niche artisan skill. In addition, the team visited the studio is St. John’s Crypt as part of the due diligence and was impressed by the level of commitment by both staff and volunteers and the extent to which their efforts had contributed to the transformation of the local area since Southbank Mosaics was founded.
Despite the higher risks comparative to other portfolio investments, the Arts Impact Fund is delighted to have the opportunity to support an arts organisation truly dedicated to creating social impact. By providing financial support in the early stages of establishing the London School of Mosaic, social investment would be catalytic in driving local change, supporting the longevity of an age-old art form and developing the wider organisation's financial resilience.