Basement hideouts, industrial marvels and subterranean studios. You’ll find art in the most surprising of places in Leeds…
The city’s big galleries draw significant crowds (and rightly so), but there’s much to merit a tour of the lesser-known art spaces of Leeds. You may be surprised by just how many intimate galleries and artists’ studios are tucked away in the city, just waiting to be discovered. From the quirky and quaint to the downright eccentric, get ready for an art lovers’ tour of Leeds like you’ve never seen before.
You may not put art galleries and roast dinners side by side, but that’s all about to change. The Brunswick offers three levels of food, booze and, nestled up on the top floor, art. It’s a multi-purpose events space, but it’s often used as a gallery that offers local artists a place to find new audiences, as well as a temporary home for more established names visiting Leeds. Take a browse of the ever-changing art displays after enjoying a craft beer and one of the best roast dinners to be found in the whole of Leeds.
The Brunswick, 82 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
130 Vicar Lane
East Street Arts works across Leeds, curating local artistic talent and providing spaces for them to exhibit their art. 130 Vicar Lane is one such spot and a visit to this charming gallery is a tale of two halves. The first is an in-residency programme for young Leeds artists, giving them a sought-after opportunity to display their work and you a chance to enjoy art made within your very own community. But you can also get involved yourself, as the art space is also home to Leeds Print Workshop who offer hands-on classes to help you kickstart your own artistic projects.
130 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
The Old Red Bus Station
A spot to drink, dine and get inspired by great artwork, The Old Red Bus Station is a marvellous bar-cum-gallery. Vegan food and exceptionally well-priced beers (£3.20 a pint in some cases) can be found on the ground level, while upstairs the two-room event space is rented out for a whole host of events. Club nights and parties tend to rule the roost, but art exhibitions crop up from time to time too. Take a peek upstairs next time you’re nursing your bargain beer.
The Old Red Bus Station, 101-105 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
As well as acting as the headquarters for East Street Arts, Patrick Studios also has a stunning, double height exhibition space to wow visitors. It’s an exquisite room, fascinating to visit and adorned by artworks created by local Leeds artists who rent out the 34 studio spaces within the building. Paintings, sculpture, print, installations – it’s an ever-rotating line up of different disciplines that offers the public a first-hand view of the most cutting edge art being created in the city.
Patrick Studios, St Mary’s Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7EH.
Whether you just like to sit back and admire the art, or would rather get hands-on, The Bowery is an absolute treasure of a Leeds art space. Part exhibition, part cafe, part shop, the gallery itself offers a diverse selection of contemporary art. Photography is popular, so too is painting and sculpture, but it’s worth a visit whatever’s on offer considering how much else there is to enjoy. The cafe is a firm favourite for homemade snacks and decent coffee, art workshops are on-hand so you can learn the tricks of the trade and select pieces of art on display can even be bought to take home. Talk about a one-stop-shop…
The Bowery, 54 Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2AL.
You wouldn’t know it from the outside but Serf, sitting above Wharf Chambers, thrives as a welcoming art space for the community to come together, share in art and inspire creativity. On the artists’ side, that means a studio-led project space curated by the artists themselves. With over 20 open-plan studios and workshops, there’s never any shortage of great work to display and this is done through a number of public exhibitions throughout the year. So you can step into their beautiful art gallery filled with the work of early-career artists looking for a space to grow and thrive.
Serf, 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EQ.
Castle Fine Art
Situated right in the heart of the city on Albion Place, Castle Fine Art is a real hidden treasure. You’ve probably passed it without even realising it was there. This Leeds art gallery offers two floors of fine art from an ever-growing selection of artists. There are national names on display here, but you can always see a couple of local artists too, for those of you wanting to keep things ‘Yorkshire’. Everything is for sale, so you can take home your favourites, but there’s no pressure to buy from the friendly gallery team. You’re just as welcome to browse and enjoy.
Castle Fine Art, 24-25 Albion Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6JS.
Based out in Chapel Allerton, Inkwell Arts is a charitable Leeds art space with real soul. Warm and welcoming, it treats art as a type of therapy and does vital work within the local community – in particular offering classes for people recovering from mental health issues. The age range of participants is massive and personal expression is heartily encouraged, so you’ll find a wonderful array of paintings, ceramics, jewellery, sculpture and photography on display. Simply pop along to their large art gallery to admire works from Inkwell residents and local Leeds artists alike. Or you can take part in one of their open classes yourself (they don’t require a referral).
Inkwell Arts, 31 Potternewton Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3LW.
Founded by Leeds graduates back in 2013, Assembly House is a workspace-slash-exhibition-space for emerging creatives across a whole host of disciplines. They have illustrators, sculptors, designers, performance artists, painters and more. The building itself is a former Victorian textiles mill on the edge of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and it’s an intriguing place to visit. Inside, the dedicated project space offers up a monthly programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks and residencies for art-hungry Leeds residents.
Assembly House, 44 Canal Road, Armley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2PL.
Despite its size, The Tetley still seems to fly under the radar. Formerly the Tetley Brewery headquarters, this art deco building is home to oodles of contemporary art in the form of temporary exhibitions, long-term residencies and one-off events. Join the fun and explore the expansive building full of quirky art spaces and interesting history. On occasion the artwork even cascades out into the outside space. Wednesday lates give the after-work crowd an extra three hours to soak up the art while supping a pint or two of Tetley’s.
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS10 1JQ.
CLAY: Centre For Live Art Yorkshire
There’s no shortage of unique art spaces in Leeds, but have you stumbled across CLAY yet? It certainly isn’t your run of the mill gallery – in fact, they go all out to challenge people’s perceptions of exactly what art is. The warehouse is a performance art space, which means almost anything goes. During a visit here you could be captured by a theatrical staging, a music show, interpretative dance or something a little more traditional. If you like to be surprised, CLAY has both the space and the cojones to do it.
Live Art Bistro, Regent Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7QA.
Freedom Mills, located in an atmospheric Victorian warehouse a stone’s throw from the River Aire, is a local venue through and through. After the 2015 floods ruined the building right before its opening, the city of Leeds came to the rescue and raised over £1,000 to get them kickstarted again. And thank goodness they did, for now we are graced with this highly adaptable art space that flits between art fairs and gallery pop-ups, club nights and live music. The past has seen exhibitions from the likes of local legend, Nicholas Dixon, and graffiti genius, Inkie.
Freedom Mills, Washington Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1JL.
Sunny Bank Mills
Get your arty self over to Farsley for an art space that doubles as a pure architectural delight. The refurbished mills are spacious, friendly and packed full of creative stimulation. The 3,000 square foot art gallery serves as the creative hub of the mill and shines a light on local designers courtesy of a rolling exhibition programme. Browse works to take home in the shop or consider your next move from the tranquil cafe. Art courses from life drawing to felt making can be undertaken here, and don’t miss the fascinating archives which are a treasure trove of objects pertaining to the building’s textile past.
Sunny Bank Mills, 83-85 Town Street, Farsley, Pudsey, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS28 5UJ.
The combination of Leeds-centric art, created by Leeds artists for Leeds people is an irresistible one – and that’s exactly what’s on offer at Union 105. Seven in-house studios provide a space for local artists to develop new work inspired by Chapeltown. Although it’s a working studio, it’s possible to nip into their tiny project space to browse the range of commissions. It’s a charming response to the people, places and context of Chapeltown and a great example of how to blend art and community.
Union 105, 105 Chapeltown Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3HY.
Right slap bang in the middle of the city, based in the grandiose setting of the Victoria Quarter, it’s surprisingly easy to miss Whitewall Galleries. But seek it out and you’ll be rewarded with an interesting collection of art. The gallery itself is a classy affair but it’s by no means exclusive. With a focus on contemporary art, there’s plenty for sale, but they also host regular events and get their hands on some pretty impressive nationally touring exhibitions too. Keep them on your radar.
Whitewall Galleries, 25 King Edward Street, Victoria Quarter, West Yorkshire, LS1 6AX.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery
Go and show your support to the Leeds artists of tomorrow at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. It’s part of the University of Leeds but that doesn’t mean it’s just for students. Open to the public since 1970, it’s a little-known gem of an art space. It’s home to the University Art Collection and features a lovely selection of European and British paintings, plus prints dating from the 17th century all the way through to the modern day. Temporary exhibitions keep the offering fresh and the graduate art displays are always a highlight.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
The Craft Centre and Design Gallery
Boasting an excellent selection of art works, The Craft Centre and Design Gallery is one to seek out. Hidden away underneath Leeds City Art Gallery it’s all too easy to miss, but take the steps down next time you’re there and you’ll be richly rewarded. Disciplines like woodcutting jewellery making, ceramics and prints cosy up alongside a whole bunch of original art that is available to buy. Support the underdog and you’ll likely return home with a mighty fine gift in your pocket.
The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
Room 700 at Leeds Central Library
There’s far more to Leeds Central Library than just books. Room 700 is a multi-use art space that takes inspiration from the heritage and materials within the library itself. The year-round events programme takes the form of multiple artistic disciplines including digital art, sculpture and spoken word. The monthly Artists in Residence scheme is particularly exciting, allowing visitors to attend workshops, talks and even open studios, so you can watch the art-making as it happens. Exhibitions pop up from time-to-time here too, so keep your eyes peeled.
Leeds Central Library Art Space, 1st Floor, Leeds Central Library, Caverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
Basement Arts Project
You probably wouldn’t expect to find one of Leeds’ coolest independent art spaces in a mid-terraced house in Beeston, but surprise surprise, that’s exactly where Basement Arts Project is. It’s only open for a few hours on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays, but founder Bruce Davies has made it his mission to provide a platform for both local and international artists to display their work in his subterranean art gallery. The result is an entirely unique roster of solo and group exhibitions, which is quirky and delightful in equal measures.
Basement Arts Project, 28 Back Burton Terrace, Beeston, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5JH.
Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART)
Endearingly known as HEART, Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre is run out of an old primary school and entirely deserving of your support. It’ll be a reciprocal relationship though, for there’s plenty to keep you entertained here. Alongside the events programme, shared workspaces and an excellent cafe, there are three art spaces showcasing paintings, photographs and drawings by Leeds artists. The entire space is light, airy and clearly full of passion, making it a fantastic place to kick back and soak up some home-grown creativity.
HEART, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3HN.
Seven Arts is a real community asset and the light-filled cafe and outdoor terrace visible from the street makes it enticing from the get-go. What you may not know, however, is that there’s far more to Seven Arts than meets the eye. Venture in and you’ll find a rotating art exhibition that showcases a different local artist every month. You’ll find their works, whether it’s paintings, photography or print, dotted around the cafe and bar area to admire as you drink and dine. Live music, comedy nights and a tempting array of homemade cakes will be your only distractions.
Seven Arts, 31(a) Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PD.
Aire Place Studios
Aire Place Studios is an exciting addition to Leeds’ art scene, although the riverside art space is still not widely known. Both an art gallery and a creative studio, Aire Place is exclusively led by women and non-binary people who work to actively encourage participation from individuals with limited access to the arts. Their admirable ethos is matched by well-curated exhibitions. The inclusive atmosphere invites return visits, so while it may be lesser-known, it’s certainly much-loved by loyal returners.
Aire Place Studios, Unit 2c, Aire Place Mills, Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS3 1JL.Cover image credit: Simeon Barclay, Art Now, Tate Britain.