A Brief History of the Visual Arts Centre at Christ’s College 

by Alan Munro

In 1997, I was approached by the Director of Kettle’s Yard, Michael Harrison, enquiring if by any chance the College had space to house a Video artist called Marion Kalmus for a year.  I had, for a long time, felt that the University and College provide outstanding opportunities for sport, music and drama, but very little for the visual arts.  I had also identified the space on the first floor above the furniture shop on King Street as unsuitable for commercial letting.  Kettle’s Yard were willing to pay a modest rent and our Maintenance Manager (then Tony Weaver) felt that it would be very easy to make part of the space suitable for Marion Kalmus’ work.  In this way the Art Centre started.

Kettle’s Yard expressed an interest to rent space again for the next academic year, and the College Council agreed that the Maintenance Department could spend a modest sum working in the summer to convert the whole of the first floor into three large studios.  Also at this time the College was extremely fortunate to receive a donation from Ruben Levy and Shelby White, which together with funds from Sir John Plumb, created the Levy Plumb fund, which agreed to fund a graduate studentship in the Visual Arts with the first appointment in the summer of 1998.

Somehow I felt that we should be able to use the third studio to make sure that Christ’s students would get) the opportunity, and be encouraged, to try life drawing. Again, I was approached by Issam Kourbaj, a Cambridge artist who was looking for studio space to rent.  Issam has had many years experience as a teacher to people at all levels of ability.  The Council agreed that I could offer Issam, on an annual basis, one of the studios free of rent on condition that he provided 15 life-drawing classes for 10 Christ’s students each year. 

In addition the Centre has been used for exhibitions and for the student picture loan scheme.  Later the only usable room on the second floor has been let commercially either for storage or for creative artists.  Sadly the Visual Arts Centre closed on 31 December 2017 to make way for the redevelopment of the site for postgraduate accommodation.

Kettle’s Yard Artist’s in Residence



1999-00           Jaun Cruz




Since 2003, there have not been funds from Kettle’s Yard to support an artist in residence. The studio that Kettle’s Yard had used has now been considerably expanded to provide space for seven artists, which, until 2011 included Levy-Plumb Visual Arts Studentship Holders:

2010-2011: Anna Trench

2009-2010: Naomi Grant

2008-2009: Tom de Freston




2004-2005: Sarah Howe


2002-2003: Steve Jamison

2001-2002: S J Mockler

2000-2001: S McMillan

1999-2000: J J F Wilenius