IT’S not even open yet but it’s already been shortlisted for a national award. 

Southampton’s flagship arts centre Studio 144 is in the running for a ‘Hearts for the Arts’ prize run by national arts advocacy organisation National Campaign for the Arts. 

One of five potential winners shortlisted, the prize aims to highlight the work that local councils do for the arts.

Also in the running are Blackpool Council for Wordpool, London Borough of Waltham Forest for their Dementia Programme at the William Morris Gallery, Nottingham City Council for Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service (NPALS) and Oldham Council for The Limehurst Arts Society.

Hailed as a “high-profile addition to Southampton’s cultural scene” and a “keystone in the city’s tourism offering”, Studio 144 will employ around 100 staff, have a joint annual turnover of over £3m, and attract around 350,000 people a year - whilst the city council estimates that the development will drive an additional £21m of visitor spend in the city each year.

A spokesperson for the National Campaign for the Arts said: “Councils have been the unsung heroes of arts funding for decades.

"Town halls across the nation are under unprecedented pressure to reduce budgets and deal with increased demands in areas such as social care, but even so our analysis shows the arts have been cut disproportionately in the last five years compared to council services overall - despite the fact that investment in the arts accounts on average for less than ½p in every £1 spent by local authorities in England.

“But this is not true everywhere. Some local authorities really understand the importance of the arts to the wellbeing of local communities and the value that this small but crucial investment brings.

"Our Hearts for the Arts Awards will shine a spotlight on councils and individual officers and councillors who are overcoming financial challenges to ensure the arts are at the centre of community life.”

Judge, playwright and director David Lan said of Studio 144: “It’s great that collaboration is at the heart of this project.”

Southampton city council’s culture boss, councillor Satvir Kaur, said the prize shows how seriously the city takes its investment in the arts.

She said: “It’s an accolade and a reflection of us as a city - not only the council but the partners we’ve worked with. And it shows our continued commitment to arts and culture - it’s been proven that that grows the economy, increases civic pride and addresses social need.” 

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, Studio 144 will house Nuffield theatre’s city centre venue, the John Hansard gallery (which will move from Southampton university campus) and City Eye film education organisation. 

The John Hansard will open in spring this year and the rest in October. 

The National Campaign for the Arts was founded in 1985 as the UK’s only independent lobbying organisation representing all the arts. It has been chaired by Sir Melvin Bragg and Dame Joan Bakewell and operates as an independent charity run by an unpaid board of directors.