IT'S been a zoo, a park ranger's education space and an office. Tomorrow it's officially launching as the new Metal Art School, situated in the original part of the stable block of the old Chalkwell Hall house - now the Metal HQ - in Chalkwell Park.

Largely unused in 2015, Metal was successful in being awarded a grant from the Arts Council's England Small Capital Grant scheme, and the building was renovated.

The arts organisation's vision is that it will "provide a space where people of all ages and abilities can learn in a shared environment through both formal and informal sessions."

It has a fully equipped digital studio, has wifi and a traditional making, research and development space for artists.

Metal’s artistic director, Colette Bailey said: “Exciting partnerships with a wide range of highly skilled artists from across Southend, schools, HE and FE colleges, Southend Borough Council Public Health team, Southend Adult Community College, Open Arts, Beecroft Art Gallery, Focal Point Gallery and others have led to a fantastic programme of eclectic activities, that mean there really is something for everyone, at every level, to get involved with at Metal Art School.”

A partnership between Metal and Southend Borough Council Public Health team has created an 18 month project to explore how digital arts in an outdoor setting can improve mental health and well-being.

Projects are also already said to be underway with Project 49, Summerfield Care Centre, adults with dementia and young carers.

Emma Mills who co-ordinates the programme said: “We aim to encourage people who may feel isolated, anxious, lonely or depressed to come and talk to us about having a go with the NetPark digital apps, experiencing new art, learning new skills and basically having fun.”

TOMA (The Other MA) is another Metal Art School experiment – created in partnership with local Southend artists. It is a 12-month alternative art education model that is unaccredited but provides all the learning and critical exchange of an MA programme for post-graduate art students.

It is a response to the fact that many artists who wish to continue their learning and discourse with peers are unable to access most current MA provision for a number of reasons – time, cost, work or family commitments.

Other activities currently scheduled or in development include: Discover in a Day – a creative all day course for youngsters resulting in a nationally accredited award; NetPark creative digital workshops; Artist-led workshops - for adults; Emotional wellbeing / mental health workshop; NVQ Horticulture; Summer Schools – creative arts courses in school holidays; PEP (Pupil Enrichment Programme) – a range of creative arts courses for secondary school students designed specifically to enrich and extend arts provision in schools; The National Art & Design Saturday Club - Sorrell Foundation, a free to access Saturday art and design workshop sessions for 14-16yrs and CPD, creative workshops for teachers.

The school is open tomorrow - Thursday April 28 - on a drop in basis, from 1pm until 6pm.