Nucleus Arts is an arts organisation created in 2002 to promote the arts to everyone in Medway, and more widely across Kent. In March 2015 we met Natasha Steer, Nucleus’ Education and Community Development Coordinator in the thriving Café Nucleus, to learn more about the organisation and what they do.
Nucleus Arts has been running for the past 13 years, as part of the Halpern Charitable Foundation. The organisation was first set up by Hilary Halpern, a renowned local architect. In the first instance, the organisation began to provide studio space for local artists as he felt that there were not enough facilities available for creative people.
In addition to the studio spaces, Halpern created gallery spaces too and over the years the organisation has expanded, sprawling across Kent where they now span four sites and run festivals across the year. They host exhibitions and events and boast a number of meeting spaces and facilities to run art workshops for the community. What’s remarkable is that all of the Nucleus sites combined are only run by two full-time staff, five part-time staff and an enthusiastic throng of volunteers.
One of Nucleus Arts’ main projects is called ‘Art Inclusive’, which is all about offering affordable but professional creative programmes to the community. Natasha told us that one of Nucleus Arts’ key aims is to make sure that art is made available to a everyone, trying to break down perceptions that art should be elitist, or only for the select few.
The programme encourages people at risk of social exclusion (for example disabled people, young people, and others who could become isolated from society) to take up artistic activities.
It was really clear that Natasha was passionate about her work and the community she serves; in fact, the day after our visit she was abseiling to raise some extra funds for the project! She also volunteers at The Prince’s Trust as a mentor for two young people.
When we asked her about arts projects in the area, she told us that she prefers the term ‘creative’ to ‘art’ as it’s “a bit less snooty”. Natasha told us how strongly she felt that everyone should have access to creative activities and feel welcome.
Aside from her work at Nucleus she also runs the ‘Creatabot’ website, which is a “project that connects, promotes and supports creativity”. Local artists from Medway and Kent can use Creatabot to link up with other artists and creatives in the area. It also features local news and interviews with artists and designers.
Natasha told us that she really valued Medway’s history, saying that it made the area a really interesting place to live. Medway is a heritage town, best known for its historic dockyard. For hundreds of years, the docks were a key source of income for the town but were closed down in the 1970s. Natasha told us that this decline of industry in the area led to some negativity, but these days the dockyard is vibrant again, bringing in hordes of tourists and frequently used as a TV and film location.
She also told us that the area’s creative scene is really lively and that the area is full of “community doers”. Natasha was really pleased to share that the area has a strong cohort of volunteers, working in partnership to make the area even better.Featured project: Bringing the arts to the whole community,