by Sam Murray
Like Camden? Love art? Totally wild about centres?
You’ll go crazy for the free-to-enter Camden Art Centre.
The building in which it sits is a stop-worthy attraction in itself: a Grade II-listed red brick, opened in the 1890s (as the Hampstead Central Library) with financial support from insurance heavyweight Sir Henry Harben. Thanks, Henners.
After getting bombed multiple times during the Second World War, the library moved to a bigger venue in Swiss Cottage in the 60s, and the Victorian building became home to the Hampstead Arts Centre. Finally, it evolved into the Camden Art Centre, a beginner-to-pro creative hub running all manner of community courses and showcasing works by a globe-trotting roster of contemporary artists.
On the learning side of things, there’s a selection of classes and courses to hit every artistic button (sculptural candlestick-making, anyone?). Once you’ve created your masterpiece, see how it’s meant to be done by perusing the regularly changing exhibitions from the pros.
It’s a particularly good spot to see rising international stars – Kerry James Marshall had his first UK show here – and does a roaring trade in British talent – Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed exhibited here, as has two-time nominee Mike Nelson.
And, because admiring modern masters can be hungry work, there’s Bar Bicicletta, a cafe serving Italian small plates, speciality coffees, teas and cocktails. On sunny days, they can be enjoyed in the garden and terrace, which stays open till 10pm Thurs-Sun, and plays host to live performances on evenings throughout the summer.
On rainy days, take a seat – and your drink – under the canvas awning.
Perhaps the only canvas here without applause-worthy art.
NOTE: Camden Art Centre is open Tuesday – Sunday. Entry is free, but it’s recommended to book ahead – you can do that HERE.
Camden Art Centre | Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG
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