Although the iconic BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art dominates the horizon of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s alternative art scene, there are a handful of smaller institutions scattered throughout the city which are absolutely worth a visit. Home to cutting-edge art and ambitious projects, Newcastle’s reputation as a cultural hub is shaped largely by these thriving artistic centres, all of which are free to visit.
Tucked away on a tiny street by the Tyne, Side Gallery is a key landmark on Newcastle’s cultural map. Founded in 1977, the gallery is committed to art as social documentary. Past exhibitions’ themes range from the Arab Spring, Polish ghettos in WWII, to the changing role of women in Iran. Talks are organized around most of the exhibitions, and they also house a small shop selling photography books, postcards, and affordable prints.
Part of Newcastle University, Hatton Gallery was founded in 1925 and has been at the heart of cultural life in the north-eastern part of England ever since. Attached to the Fine Art department of the University, the space has a thoroughly creative vibe. Their permanent collection includes work by Francis Bacon and Richard Hamilton, as well as Kurt Schwitters’ internationally acclaimed Elterwater Merzbarn, a must-see piece. There is also a shop selling artists’ materials, and a café where visitors can sip coffee alongside enrolled art students.
Set in a disused office block at the heart of the city, The NewBridge Project consists of an exhibition space, a bookshop café and over 80 artists’ studios. The artist-led community focuses on exploring new approaches to art practice and nurturing a strong community feel, with regular free exhibitions of artists’ work, events, talks, screenings, and discussion groups. The bookshop is worth a special mention, as some of its stock will not be found elsewhere.
A 20-minute walk or short metro ride from the city center, Workplace Gallery is based in Gateshead. Run by artists Paul Moss and Miles Thurlow, the gallery offers a mix of contemporary photography, sculpture, and fine art exhibitions, providing a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work.
Although not strictly a gallery, a visit to North East England would not be complete without a trip to Tyneside Cinema. As well as screening cult classics and new releases, the cinema has a recently opened exhibition space called The Gallery, showcasing pieces by artists who use the medium of film in their work and blur the line between art and cinema in cutting-edge style. The Tyneside Bar Café is also worth a visit, complete with an evening programme of live music, movies, quiz and DJ nights.