As an organisation, CAST has developed out of a series of contemporary art events organised in Cornwall since 2010: The Falmouth Convention (May 2010), The Penzance Convention (May 2012) and The Cornwall Workshop, an ongoing series of residential workshops held since 2011 at Kestle Barton on the Lizard peninsula.
In May 2014 CAST hosted a ‘workshop of workshops’ at Kestle Barton, with former workshop participants and special guests. A second workshop, held in April 2015, involved artists, curators and representatives of all the leading art institutions in Cornwall and generated a preliminary plan for a festival of international contemporary art in Cornwall.
The workshop discussions with artists and curators held at Kestle Barton in 2014 and 2015 also informed the preparation of an application to Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence scheme, leading to the award of funding for Groundwork, a three-year programme of international contemporary art culminating in a season of exhibitions and events in 2018. Kestle Barton, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and Tate St Ives were closely involved in the preparation of the Ambition for Excellence application and were partners in the development of Groundwork.
CAST is based in Helston, in the former School of Science and Art given to the town by the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards in 1897. The building was extended in 1905 and 1913 when it became a secondary school, but it became redundant with the introduction of comprehensive education in the 1970s and was later used as a community centre. It was boarded up in 2010 and finally sold by Helston Town Council in 2012. When they took on the management of the building the Trustees of CAST raised funds for a limited schedule of urgent repairs, pending a more substantial scheme of renovations. CAST continues to seek support for renovation of the building.
Artists first moved into studios in the building in the summer of 2013 and a number of additional spaces have since been renovated, including CAST Café, new studios and a specially constructed black box projection space, first installed for Groundwork exhibitions in 2018.