Camden Arts Centre is situated at the corner of Arkwright Road and Finchley Road, NW3 in a Grade II listed premises, constructed as Hampstead Central Library and designed by the architect Arnold Taylor. The building was opened in 1897 by its benefactor Sir Henry Harben, then Deputy Chairman of the Prudential Assurance Company. The Victorian structure funded by Harben survived World War II, despite hits by enemy incendiary bombs in 1940 and the blast from a V2 rocket in 1945.
The library grew in size and was extended in the 1920s, however by 1964 a new facility opened in Swiss Cottage which was better able to cope with the demands of the modern library service and all stock was transferred to it.
Hampstead Arts Centre (renamed Camden Arts Centre in 1967) was created in 1965 providing the local community with classes in painting, life drawing, pottery, printing and basic design. The building’s integral qualities of simplicity, space and light were ideal for the showing of art and the first exhibition was held a year after the Centre was established. Inevitably, the site soon became a focal point for artists living locally.
Since the sixties, the artistic and education programmes at Camden Arts Centre have developed dramatically. Director Jenni Lomax OBE joined Camden Arts Centre in 1990, and has established an internationally acclaimed programme of exhibitions, residencies, artists’ projects and public events. She led the organisation through a major building refurbishment scheme which was completed in early 2004 by Tony Fretton Architects.