Leeds has some of the best art galleries around, but it’s not just the high profile ones that are worth your attention, the city’s lesser known exhibition spaces have plenty to offer too.
The city’s big galleries have garnered respect with their influential exhibitions, but Leeds also has plenty of smaller art spaces that, while less famous, are well worth seeking out. Whether it’s active studios where artists work and show off their skills or even an intimate exhibition space tucked away in a basement, there’s plenty on offer for art lovers.
Lady Beck Studios and Project Space
Previously known as Enjoy, the Lady Beck Studios and Project Space has only recently re-launched on Mabgate. It’s now run by the team behind Assembly House, and as well as continuing the work of its former life, providing students and creatives just starting out with a space to work and exhibit, Lady Beck has grown to include a whole new floor developed into studios which will be available for emerging groups and collectives to use.
Lady Beck Studios and Project Space, Unit 22, 64-76 Mabgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7DZ.
You might have heard about The Brunswick, one of the newer additions to Leeds, which is blending food and drink with art and events in its little corner of North Street. The first floor is the bar, which you’ll no doubt want to make the most of with its oodles craft beers, but step up to the top floor and you’re likely to come across an ever-changing array of exhibitions, from local artists making their break to more established names visiting the city.
The Brunswick, 82 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
The Old Red Bus Station
Having sat empty for over two decades, The Old Red Bus Station on Vicar Lane is finally back in use. It’s been revived as one of the coolest little bars in the city. Alongside craft beers and an tasty daily menu, they have a dedicated art and events space on their first floor. The aim is to showcase the best local artists they can find, giving them a platform to exhibit their work, as well as welcoming in the best from across Europe to show off a wide spectrum of artistic talent.
The Old Red Bus Station, 101-105 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Possessing one of the more unusual names for an art space in Leeds, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun is all about providing a place for creativity to flourish. It’s home is just above Wharf Chambers off Kirkgate, and the space is two-dimensional – providing somewhere for local artists to come, work and share ideas, while also becoming a gallery for an annual programme of contemporary art exhibitions.
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EQ.
The Bowery flies under the radar despite being one of the best art spaces in Leeds. It’s got a cafe so you can nip for a cuppa and a slice of cake, but it’s mainly about the exhibitions they put on, as they seek out the finest local artists and give them a platform to show off their work to a wider audience. Even better, if you do like what you see, you can purchase the art to take home with you, or even try it out for yourself with one of their many creative workshops.
The Bowery, 54 Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2AL.
One of East Street Arts’ network of studios, Barkston House is unique because it concentrates solely on one discipline – ceramics. They’ve got seven units on the building’s first floor with 40 studio spaces, a 20 person classroom and a ceramics room with a plaster room, kilns, sinks and specialist equipment. You can see their unique creations in the two on-site art galleries at the Leeds venue, alongside a host of other exhibitions.
Barkston House, Croydon Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 9RT.
Based out in Chapel Allerton, The Inkwell is an art space that does vital work for the local community. They work with people who are vulnerable or have mental health issues to help fight the stigmas they face, by running creative workshops that both challenge and encourage them. The result is an ever-changing selection of locally-made art, which means there’s something new to see every time you visit.
The Inkwell, 31 Potternewton Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3LW.
Castle Galleries is a weird one. You see, you probably pass it every day without ever knowing it’s there. Based on Albion Place, it’s part of a chain of art galleries that can be found all over the UK. They aim to give folk access to a range of fine art from an ever-growing selection of artists, some of national repute, others just making their mark – and if you like what you see, you can take it home with you, as all the work they show is for sale.
Castle Galleries, 24-25 Albion Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6JS.
As well as acting as the headquarters for one of Leeds’ finest cultural institutions, East Street Arts, Patrick Studios on St Mary’s Lane, just off York Road, is a bespoke venue for artists to really get to work. There are 34 studio spaces, a resource area and a double height project space. The latter is vital because it gives artists a platform to show off their work and generate new ideas, while offering the public a firsthand view of the most cutting edge art and their makers in one unique space.
Patrick Studios, St Mary’s Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 7EH.
Having taken over one of Armley’s famous textile mills, Assembly House has turned the once vital building into something important once again. It’s an artist-led studio space just by the Leeds-Liverpool Canal which is home to a wide range of creatives who specialise in all kinds of art. As well as acting as their workspace, they have a newly-built art gallery and project space on site where they host monthly exhibitions, screenings, workshops and events that you’ll definitely want to check out.
Assembly House, 44 Canal Road, Armley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2PL.
Live Art Bistro
One of the more unique art spaces in Leeds, Live Art Bistro really does go all out to confound and challenge people’s perceptions of art. It’s not your usual gallery – in fact, its main focus is performance art, be it theatre, music, dance or something more traditional. Spread out over a huge former car dealership, they’ve got the space to really innovate with their performances and you may just be surprised at what you encounter.
Live Art Bistro, Regent Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7QA.
It’s not often you come across an art space that’s dedicated to the local community, but that’s exactly what the East Street Arts run Union 105 is. Based in the Leeds suburb of Chapeltown, its seven studios provide space for artists who live in the surrounding area where they produce and present work that’s inspired by the suburb. While a working studio, you can also nip into their project space where they show a range of exhibitions by commissioned artists, as well as hosting partner events.
Union 105, 105 Chapeltown Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3HY.
Another city centre gallery that you never knew existed, Whitewall Galleries is based in the grandiose setting of the Victoria Quarter, bringing the finest art from across the world to Leeds. They have a special focus on contemporary art, so you can pick up the rare finds of tomorrow, while they also host regular exhibitions, for those of you who like to follow the latest artistic trends.
Whitewall Galleries, 61 Vicar Lane, Victoria Quarter, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6BE.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery
The art at the University of Leeds isn’t just reserved for students. Since 1970, the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery has been open to the public. It’s home to the University Art Collection, a large selection of ceramics, photographs and sculpture. And there’s plenty more to enjoy for free, including a wide range of British and European paintings, drawings and prints from the 17th century to present.
The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT.
The Craft Centre and Design Gallery
One of the most underrated art galleries in Leeds can be found beneath one of the most famous. The Craft Centre and Design Gallery is under Leeds Art Gallery, and contains works from 300 British designers and artists, with everything from jewellery and limited edition prints to ceramics and mixed media. Best of all, everything you see is for sale, so if you see something that would look great over your mantelpiece, you can take it home. Mark your calendars as the gallery runs annual print shows, exhibitions and showcases.
The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
Sunny Bank Mills
Once an important part of the city’s industrial past, Sunny Bank Mills was lovingly restored by the Gaunt family and has now been reborn as a multi-purpose creative workspace, meeting centre and art gallery in the heart of Farsley. With its large nine foot windows which allow natural light to stream through, the 3,500 square foot art gallery is the perfect setting for exhibitions and even theatre events, while it’s also currently undergoing an expansion which will see activities at the Leeds venue increase.
Sunny Bank Mills, 83-85 Town Street, Farsley, Pudsey, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS28 5UJ.
Leeds Central Library Art Space
You’ll find more than paperbacks hidden in Leeds Central Library. Just head up the stairs to the first floor where you’ll find their art space. Here, they bring together art and words. You can browse over 25,000 books on subjects from crafts to sculpture, enjoy their latest art exhibitions, attend author events and much more – no library card needed.
Leeds Central Library Art Space, 1st Floor, Leeds Central Library, Caverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3AB.
Tucked away in a 19th century building on East Parade, &Model Gallery opened in 2013 as a new venue to showcase contemporary art from a range of local and international artists. The aim here was to offer something different, with exhibitions you wouldn’t find in traditional Leeds galleries. Since opening, they’ve displayed the work of over 100 artists, ranging from room-filling installations to tiny models.
&Model Gallery, 19 East Parade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2BH.
Mexico Project Space
Recently relocated to The Calls, Mexico Project Space, was formed in 2011 by a group of local graduates, working together to attract more contemporary art into Leeds and to build relationships with other emerging artists. Previous exhibitions at the Leeds gallery have included everything from prints to modern art installations – and they hold a free annual Winter Solstice event, with live performances, art and a host of tasty treats.
Mexico Project Space, 53 The Calls, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EY.
Workshop Press Gallery
It’s one thing to admire a photograph, but this Leeds art gallery aims to take it one step further by telling a story. Led by artist Garry Barker, Workshop Press Gallery champions local artists by giving them access to an etching studio to create prints or the opportunity to print their own books. If you’d rather browse art than create it, you’ll also find Barker’s intriguing drawings, ready to come alive.
Workshop Press Gallery, 10 Back Newton Grove, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 4HW.
You probably wouldn’t expect to find one of Leeds’ coolest independent art galleries in a terraced house in Beeston, but that’s exactly what Basement Arts Project is. It’s run by Bruce Davies, a man who’s made it his mission to find the best up and coming artists in the region, displaying their work in his subterranean art space, while helping them to connect and collaborate with other artists.
Basement Arts Project, 26 Burton Terrace, Beeston, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5JH.
The Old Grammar School Gallery
First opened in January 2012 by Jack Whitehead, this historic Jacobean school was reborn as a gallery, showcasing contemporary art from a wide range of local artists in their 1,200 square foot gallery. The Leeds gallery has held exhibitions that have included the likes of Racheal Bamford’s animal drawings, Julia Odell’s vibrant giclée prints depicting quaint Yorkshire market towns and Paula Dunn’s beautiful landscapes.
The Old Grammar School Gallery, Manor Square, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 3AY.
A cornerstone of the local community, Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre, otherwise known as HEART, is run out of an old primary school. Nip over to the cafe for a quick bite before you browse the three exhibition spaces showcasing paintings, photographs and drawings of local artists. Or if you prefer, unleash your creativity with life drawing, brush and palette art groups or dance classes.
HEART, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3HN.
Sunny Bank Mills image copyright Richard Moran Photography. Lady Beck image copyright Mike Winnard.