IT HAS taken 15 years of planning, fundraising, and chipping away.
Now a £3.5 million centre which it is hoped will transform Edinburgh into an international hub for contemporary sculpture is finally set to open.
The Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (ESW), in Hawthornvale, Newhaven, says its new Sculpture Centre is the first building of its kind in the UK. It will offer custom-built studios, apartments for visiting artists, fully equipped workshops and a mix of public working and meeting spaces.
Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop will officially open the new centre next Thursday .
Irene Kernan, director of the ESW, said: “There’s a real sense of excitement from the artists who want to work here.
“It’s such a beautiful working space and for the public it’s going to be a major resource for this area.
“The new Sculpture Centre has been developed to support ambitious, high-level artist-led projects and to enable us to bring visitors closer to the art being produced here.
“It’s taken a lot of effort to get to this stage. We’re a small organisation but it’s been an ambitious project. We’re looking forward to seeing it up and running.”
The centre, designed by Leith’s Sutherland Hussey Architects, will replace the ageing former railway shed next door, which ESW moved into in 1994.
The architects consulted with artists before they finalised the building design, which includes metal, wood and mixed media workshops and 26 separate artist studios.
There are just two other sculpture workshops in Scotland, with one in Glasgow and one in Aberdeenshire, although neither was purpose-built.
The new centre has been funded by a £2.3m lottery grant and more than £1m raised through trusts and donations from individuals.
The building will be open to the public and monthly tours will be offered, while educational classes and close links with local schools are also planned.
Ms Kernan added: “The public will be able to come in, meet sculptors and watch them create their art. They’ll get an insight into the processes around contemporary sculpture.”
The first artists in residence will be Warsaw-based Kuba Bakowski and Wang Xieda, from Shanghai.
The centre won its first award in April, before it even opened its doors, when it picked up The Edward Marshall Trust Award 2012, which honours projects which promote contemporary design and have a clear public benefit.
A second phase of the development, which will see the old workshop demolished and replaced with a new research and production facility, known as Creative Laboratories, will begin in September.
The project will provide a mix of indoor and open-air workspaces around a central courtyard.
The second phase has been funded by the £3m Scottish Community Foundation prize which ESW won in 2010, after beating off challenges from Edinburgh College of Art and The Scottish Book Trust.
The full £6.5m development is scheduled to be complete by autumn next year.