V22 is a multifaceted arts organisation founded by artist Tara Cranswick in 2006 with an aim to democratise art ownership and support the development of contemporary art talent, especially emerging or younger artists. It curates exhibitions and events to promote artists’ work, helping them to gain wider recognition, and provides affordable studios and workspace to artists, creative start-ups and non-profits. Through a separate legal entity (V22 plc) that is publicly listed on the smallest of London’s three stock exchanges, the organisation also owns and manages an art collection valued at just under £2million.
In addition to its artist-focused activity, V22 also takes special care to engage local residents in its work by keeping events free to the public and organising educational and community activities at its studio sites, often working in partnership with local groups and organisations.
Arts Impact Fund recently invested £300,000 in the studio provider arm of V22 (V22 London) which manages seven buildings across London supporting over 400 artists, creatives and social enterprises. Our loan will help V22 London acquire a new, Grade II* listed site – The Priory, Orpington, and refurbish it to create a number of studios, community and exhibition spaces. The organisation will purchase a 125-year lease on The Priory, the former Orpington Library and some of the gardens in the immediate surrounding area, after winning a bid from Bromley Council. This will preserve the heritage site for cultural and community use and benefit, while at the same time helping V22 to further diversify its portfolio and expand its reach. Compared to the shorter, more commercially minded leases that are typically the norm for properties of this type, the deal will also allow V22 to offer more stable conditions for artists, who may otherwise be forced to relocate if their studio spaces are redeveloped for commercial or residential use.
V22 London already has a healthy balance sheet, underpinned by the variety of buildings it manages. Increasing the size of its property portfolio will further boost the organisation’s profitability by creating economies of scale. In the course of due diligence, the Arts Impact Fund reviewed V22 London’s business model and profit forecasts. In particular, it was important to understand the historic fluctuation in tenancy rates and the proportion of income contributed by each site as well as to examine the terms on which each property was leased.
The Arts Impact Fund team also looked at the social value created by V22, most pronounced in the area of citizenship and community. With the organisation’s turn towards managing heritage buildings, including Forest Hill library, the adjacent Louise House and the newly reopened Manor House library in Lewisham, V22 has also become a driver of community development and regeneration, working to preserve essential community services and increasing volunteer engagement among local residents. The Priory, Orpington will be an opportunity for V22 to extend this into a new area, reaching out to a variety of local stakeholders to ensure diverse perspectives are included in the site’s management.
In terms of systems in place for impact management, it was encouraging to see that, thanks to its shared ownership structure, key beneficiaries of V22’s work are involved in its governance and have a say in how the organisation develops, thus avoiding the possibility of social mission drift. V22 has also developed a detailed set of outcomes, metrics and beneficiary groups to measure the impact of its activity – one of the most comprehensive that the Arts Impact Fund has seen to date. Among other things, the organisation looks at the new creative collaborations sparked among artists in its studios and, in respect of its collection, the amount of shares controlled by artists to assess its impact on art ownership structures. We were impressed by management’s rigour to gain real insight into the difference the organisation makes to the lives of artists and communities and its diligence in producing an annual social impact report - a resource-intensive undertaking for V22’s small team.
With its unusual and innovative model of working, V22 is one of the pioneers in the UK art world. We are glad to support an organisation that is truly artist-led and community-focused, proving again that, contrary to some misconception, financial performance and social impact can reinforce one another and have a truly positive correlation.
Image credit: V22 Dalston Studio. Photograph: © Noah Da Costa