Cass Art Manchester: open for artists

As art supplies store Cass Art opens a new premises in Manchester, we explore the shop and find out how it plans to support the city's creatives

Advertorial by The Skinny North | 21 Apr 2017
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With its art shops, haberdasheries and dressmakers', Manchester's Northern Quarter has long been a destination for creative minds – whether you're looking to pick up something handmade or get crafty yourself. Now, with the opening of Cass Art on Oldham Street, the area just became even more appealing for those wanting to get hands-on.

Stocked with tools and materials catering to different needs from professional artists to complete beginners, the new store is a kaleidoscopic grotto on first sight: walk in, and you're faced with walls of colour running the whole spectrum from oils, acrylics and watercolours through to chunky cans of ultra-hip Montana spray praint – a nod to the thriving street art scene in this part of the city.

But, as varied as the stock might be (artists' natural sea sponge, anyone?), the shop is about more than the sum of its shelves. With its 'Art Space' – an exhibition space that will host not just artists' work but also workshops, events and talks – Cass Art Manchester aims to help artists beyond simply keeping them supplied.

Cass Art Manchester: the launch event 

“We know Manchester has an incredibly strong creative community, and it’s important to us to support local art students and professionals, so including a free exhibition space was a huge priority,” says Cass Art's founder Mark Cass ahead of the launch of the first show in the new Art Space, a solo exhibition of portraiture and urban landscapes by Chorley-based artist Liam Dickinson.

A finalist in this year's Sky Arts Artist of the Year competition, where artists vie for a £10,000 commission among other prizes, Dickinson will present some of the pieces that earned him a place on that shortlist as well as work that explores the narratives of Manchester's cityscapes.

Describing his style as “an impressionist form of photorealism, capturing depth of field and filtered lighting with a loose painterly approach,” the 29-year-old will be joined on the opening night (26 Apr) for a live demonstration by artist Jamie Green, who also took part in the Sky Arts contest. At just 27, Green has already been recognised for his unusual style, often burning and concreting over his subject. His practice references ideas of ageing, transformation and reinvention, and this deconstructive and even destructive approach is central to his work.

“We’re looking forward to showing a huge range of work by Manchester’s artists in the Art Space,” says store manager Adam McWhinnie. 

'Let's Fill This Town with Artists'

McWhinnie leads the Oldham Street store after two years at the helm of the Liverpool branch, which was the first foray into the Northwest of England for Cass Art and its motto, 'Let's Fill This Town with Artists'; and while Manchester is already pretty teeming with artists, as any reader of The Skinny would attest, there can surely be little harm in inspiring more.

They'll certainly be well-supported, whatever they fancy experimenting with, as the shop's racks include some unusual items (model hands, pottery kits and scenery) as well as many of the brands you'd expect, from student-friendly Daler Rowney through to Winsor & Newton professional-standard paint and designers' gouache. There's equipment to introduce you to lino cutting and silk screen printing; a rainbow display of Posca pens; a choice of canvases, boards and frames... and even the turps range is decent.

The store is designed to be light-filled and open-plan to make browsing easy and accessible, reinforcing Cass Art's attitude that everyone should feel encouraged to engage with art and realise their creative talents. That ethos is also reflected in a number of different loyalty cards to help you out if you're on a budget: the Cobalt Blue Card for students, which offers discounts of up to 10%; the Viridian Card for artist educators, where 5% of sales contribute to an art education charity; and the open-to-all Reward Card, which gets you a £10 reward for every £100 you spend in store.

Cass Art, 55-57 Oldham St, Manchester, Mon-Fri 8.45am-6pm (Thu til 7pm), Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm 

Liam Dickinson: Portrait and the Urban Landscape, Cass Art Manchester, 27 Apr-7 May, private view 26 Apr 5-8pm