Roubaix in northern France, once an industrial powerhouse city has undergone a regeneration and is emerging as a centre of art and culture …
A once thriving textile town, Roubaix is a district that’s undergone enormous change as the world of industrial output has shifted. No longer the powerhouse of production that it once was, a land of thousand chimneys, its factories largely closed, Roubaix suffered a deep recession. But the city has undergone a seismic shift in recent years. And now it’s becoming a major destination for art and culture lovers.
If you’re visiting Lille, it’s a short and easy journey to Roubaix by tram or metro and a worthy detour. On arrival, head to the tourist office, a short walk from the station, opposite the world renowned La Piscine museum. Here you can find out what’s on and where. The tourist office is more like a communal centre. It’s welcoming and there are tables and chairs for anyone to use. You can even get a drink here and relax in the courtyard. There’s also a shop which sells recycled art by artists who work locally (who can resist a stylish belt made from recycled bike tyres?). And, it’s this that gives you the first indication of how Roubaix is regenerating.
Roubaix – an emerging leader in the art world
The locals have a saying in Roubaix “à la roubaisienne” – it means to keep going. And, that’s just what they’ve done as the town has moved on from its industrial past to take a new direction – a major cultural destination with a focus on art, recycling, street art and fashion. There are two museums: La Piscine and La Manufacture. Le Colisée theatre puts on outstanding shows, Ballet du Nord is based here, there are several art galleries, dozens of art studios and the street art scene is thriving.
Street art in Roubaix
The town has a vibrant collection of street art, its narrow alleys and the walls of industrial buildings are perfect open-air galleries. And, there are two brilliant, innovative art studios in Roubaix which are open to the public on the first Sunday of each month – and they are seriously worth visiting.
Opened in the spring of 2019, Ateliers Remyco art studio complex is dedicated to urban culture, graffiti and street artists and puts Roubaix in a leading position for street art. There are 15 artists based in the studios as well as a fashion designer who takes street art as her muse.
This project aims to both support and offer management to street artists as professionals whose art is their potential career. There are some seriously good artists here. Mr VOul is already well-known – he only ever paints images of himself, with a trademark top hat and clown face. Max Giaquinto whose prints are humorous, playful and ethereal has made a mark locally. He likes to leave his artworks in public spaces for people to find and keep. Then there’s Freak the Lab whose signature style always features a smile and big eyes – an indication to open your mind…
The studios are high energy, community-minded and great fun to visit. They’re looking into rechargeable spray cans to be more environmentally friendly and they work with local kids to teach them about street art. They also run workshops, put on events and concerts and have plans to open a bar.
Go on the first Sunday of the month. Meet the artists and buy a piece of their artwork before the prices rocket. This place is going to turn out the stars of the street art world. Details: www.facebook.com/ateliers.remyco.9
Ateliers Jouret opened in 2017 in a former historic textile traders building. 40 artists now work here and sell their works direct to the public. There are fashion designers, sculptors, ceramicists, photographers, textile designers, digital print artists, a glass blower, jewellers and even a puppet maker.
The quality of work here is quite simply outstanding. Professional, artistic, unique pieces that you can buy when they’re open to the public on the first Sunday of the month. In fact it’s gained such a great reputation for its fabulous art sales that on some Sundays, more than 1000 people from near and far, turn up to meet the artists and buy something beautiful.
The artists who work here come from around France to use the inspirational space, like Yon Costes, a former martial artist turned painter as well as a dancer. Influenced by Korean styles, he paints with an enormous paintbrush. And Anne-Laure Eustace a fashion designer who studied in Paris, Vienna and Australia. She works only with French fabrics, particularly ecological materials from Mulhouse, Colmar, Lyon and Armentières. Her collection of tops, dresses and coats can be tailored to fit perfectly. You can see some of her extraordinary work in the Museum of Manufacture.
And there were so many more amazing artists. It’s rare to be able to meet up with artists of this calibre, to buy their unique artwork from handmade cards, lampshades and homeware and fashion to paintings, glass and jewellery. And, they were so welcoming. Details: www.facebook.com/ateliers.jouret
Street art festival
Each September for ten days, Roubaix holds a big street art festival called #XU. The event celebrates music, art, dancing plus outdoor and street art. Artists come from all around the world to participate. You’ll find details on Roubaix Tourist office website (link below).
Roubaix is home to La Piscine, an world-class museum which was once a municipal swimming pool. It has a stunning collection and is exquisite in its own right. Read more about La Piscine…
Passion for fashion
Next to La Piscine you’ll find Le Vestiaire (27 rue de l’Espérance). It’s part of the Maisons de Mode project which proactively seeks to identify and encourage the top designers of tomorrow. Shops include fashion, accessories and homeware plus a very nice café. Around the corner in Avenue Jean Lebas are more boutiques belonging to this innovative project. Details: www.maisonsdemode.com/en