Bag Factory Artists’ Studios is an independent Non-Profit Organisation, providing interactive studio space for practicing visual artists where the exchange of ideas is encouraged and stimulated. It achieves its aims through resident artist studios, international residencies, exhibitions, specialist skills workshops and audience outreach. The Bag Factory has been supporting and promoting the visual arts in South Africa since 1991. It is affiliated with the international Triangle Network.
Bag Factory Artists’ Studios is located on the border of the vibrant suburbs of Fordsburg and Newtown in Johannesburg. Founded by South African artist Dr David Koloane, British art lover and philanthropist Sir Robert Loder, and Sandra Burnett, Bag Factory Artists’ Studios has been a space for visual artistic creativity since its inception in 1991. Established in an old bag manufacturing warehouse converted to provide studio space to artists from different racial, cultural and educational backgrounds, over more than two decades the organisation has grown to be synonymous with inclusion and diversity. Its groundbreaking and internationally renowned visiting artists’ programme as well as its numerous professional practice workshops and exhibitions have extended the scope of the organisation towards one that supports, promotes and develops the visual arts and artists in South Africa. At the time of its founding it was one of the first studio spaces in the country. Some of South Africa’s now most famous artists started their careers at the Bag Factory, including Helen Sibidi, Debora Bell, David Koloane, Sam Hlengethwa, Pat Mautloa and Penny Siopis, to name a few. The organisation is still a launching pad for emerging artists while enabling them an opportunity to be mentored by established, full time practicing artists.
Through its various programmes, it aims to address the needs of local artists, promote the visual arts in South Africa, and encourage international networking and learning by exchange. The building contains 17 studios, a fine art lithography printing studio, as well as a workshop and exhibition space. The Bag Factory has provided one of the few dedicated spaces for visual arts studios in Johannesburg. The organisation’s programmes continue to stand for inclusion and diversity, built on an idea of open access.
Key elements to the success of the Bag Factory have been the ability to attract and maintain relationships with local and international artists to its various programmes:
- Studio Provision Programme
- International Visiting Artists Programme
- Curatorial Development Programme
- Professional Skills Development Programme
- Outreach and Community-based Workshops
- Audience Development Programmes