Fresher’s Week Special: Eight Unmissable Art Spots in Leeds

Fiona Holland explores the best places for art in Leeds, perfect for a Fresher’s Week visit before lectures start.

  1. Henry Moore Institute

In and amongst the more conservative 19th century buildings that surround it in the city center, the Henry Moore Institute’s shiny black façade makes it pretty difficult to miss. Moore, one of Yorkshire’s greatest masters of modern sculpture, created the gallery in 1977 as part of a personal desire to inspire interest in sculpture. While being home to several of Moore’s abstract bodies, a lot of the gallery actually showcases more contemporary sculpture that really thinks outside the box. Expect less bronze monuments on pedestals and more photographs, performances and even collage that all work with the idea of sculpture in one way or another. The Institute also houses a neat little archive on the top floor with a lovely selection of books on sculpture. It’s also just a pleasant space to study if you’re ever bored of working on campus.

  1. Leeds City Art Gallery

Just next door is the recently reopened City Art Gallery, a must-see for all newbies. The museum has the most extensive collection of artwork in the city as well as a number of famous legends tucked up its sleeve, such as Paula Rego and Francis Bacon as well as the Yorkshire great, Barbara Hepworth.

Leeds Art Gallery, Image Credit:

The grand, bright interior of the 19th century building, as well as its gorgeous turquoise Tiled Hall café, are themselves reasons enough to visit, and with general admission being free for all it would be silly to never step inside such a beautiful space.ard

  1. The Tetley

Down in the financial district of the city, on the other side of the river Aire you’ll find an exciting space inside the old Tetley brewery. If you’re a fan of more up and coming contemporary artists from all over the world that don’t just use paint and pencil this place will be a new favourite for you. Here you’ll find performance and conceptual art as well as some fun events such as their yearly artist book and zine fair, and one-off artist talks. If you’re looking for an alternative way to spend your evening this Freshers week, the gallery’s exhibitions stay open every Wednesday until 8pm.

  1. Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery & The Treasure Gallery

While you’re getting to grips with lectures and the structure of campus itself, why not pop by to Parkinson, and have a gander at two hidden gems right at the heart of campus? If you’re into your history, the Treasures Gallery will be the spot for you. It’s full of some golden oldies from the Brotherton’s Special Collections, such as medieval manuscripts, and original texts by the Brontës. If a painting or sketch is more your cup of tea, you should head to the opposite side of the hallway where you’ll find a bright and colourful collection at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery. From exhibiting the graduate work of selected Fine Art and Art and Design students every summer, to holding exhibitions of some of Yorkshire’s greatest, sometimes undeservedly forgotten artists, the space will always have something on to keep you entertained.

Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Image Credit: University of Leeds

The gallery also hosts a sketch club every Friday afternoon if you’re looking to mingle as well as work on your drawing skills.

  1. Art Hostel

The space is pretty much what it says on the tin – an affordable refuge for artists or anyone else visiting the city who wants to discover the best in its underground arts scene. Set up by the renowned charity for contemporary arts, East Street Arts, this space is really one that’s always buzzing with activity. While each bedroom is unique and designed by a different artist, you can also find some funky work downstairs, where you’ll find their project space, which is often host to various out of the ordinary exhibitions. You’ll find it close to the Corn Exchange, nearly opposite the art shop Fred Aldous (which is pretty appropriate).

  1. The Brunswick

A pub and a gallery is always a good mix. This little building near Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen might not seem like the most obvious space for great art, but once you’ve been once you’ll soon see why so many local artists and students choose its upstairs space to exhibit their stuff time and time again. Having hosted craft fairs and student-curated exhibitions, The Brunswick is perfect for an enjoyable visit to a smaller scale gallery.

Image Credit: Nick Porter,

Why not try a homemade pie and a brew while you’re at it too?

  1. Village

Tucked away in the Thornton’s Arcade is Village, a quirky book, magazine and fanzine haven for all lovers of fashion, photography, art and design. While the ground floor shop is a mini feast for the eyes on its own, the second floor often shows some pretty avant-garde work every once in a while.

Village Bookshop and Gallery, Image Credit:

Grab a book, sip a coffee and enjoy some groovy pictures.

  1. Freedom Mills

It seems common for great art in Leeds to find a home inside old warehouses, and the studio, exhibition and event spaces inside the Victorian space, Freedom Mills are no exception to this rule. Situated slightly outside of the center near the River Aire and Kirkstall Road, this space is undoubtedly a bit of trek in comparison to the other galleries mentioned, but this doesn’t make it any less worthy of a visit. As well as being a super spot for checking out some great underground art by locals and students alike, the space also often hosts some super parties, art fairs and lectures. Only opening in 2016, this place has really boomed over the past two years, so be sure to keep an eye out on what exciting projects they might have in store this coming year.

Fiona Holland

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