July Regional Visits
Hannah Rose, VASW’s Sector Development Manager, spent time in July meeting with different arts organisations in Somerset, N.Devon & Cornwall
Part of VASW’s work is to connect with organisations across the South West Region. One of our core aims is to promote and advocate for organisations to increase recognition of the visual arts; and these visits help us grow our understanding of different programmes and specific working contexts, informing our ongoing approach.
On her first visit, Hannah travelled to Hestercombe House & Gardens in Taunton to meet their Creative Director Tim Martin; before travelling on to visit East Quay Watchet in North Somerset and meeting their Director (Culture, Arts & Economics) Jess Prendergrast Director and Arts Administration and Evaluation Officer Miriam Higgs.
Hestercombe House & Gardens Trust offers visitors a mix of beautiful landscapes in the form of four period gardens spanning three centuries of garden history and design; alongside a contemporary art gallery, manor house, working mill, restaurant and cafe.
The gallery, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2024, presents work that explores the relationship between art and landscape, with three core exhibitions a year by regional and national artists. Herstercombe regularly works with artists to commission new work through residencies and an outdoor commission programme.
The gallery is free to visit for exhibition opening events and discounted visitor rates are offered for events. Check out their vimeo channel for documentation of previous shows, commissions and events, and sign up to their newsletter to keep updated about exhibitions and events.
Built by the social enterprise Onion Collective, East Quay in Watchet is a fantastic new cultural and community building in West Somerset that includes three contemporary art galleries, artist studios, making spaces, an education space, a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired Kitchen, amazing accommodation pods, and a dynamically changing Courtyard, showcasing an eclectic range of dance, music, and theatre performances.
When plans for an unsuitable housing development fell through, the local community resisted, proposing instead a new cultural development; and fundraising for a facility that would bring high quality arts, cultural and creative opportunities and experiences to the area. East Quay in Watchet is the result of ten years of work by Contains Art and Onion Collective, who worked collaboratively with people living locally to present engaging exhibitions in converted shipping containers, which are now located at the heart of the new development.
On her second trip, Hannah went on a bumper visit to meet organisations and artists across south Cornwall.
Her first call was to meet Megan Beck, Director of Grays Wharf; an arts organisation in Penryn that houses a gallery and workspace for creative practitioners. Gray’s Wharf are committed to supporting artists to experiment and test new ways of working through solo presentations; and their exhibition programme includes co-curated exhibitions by invited artists and curators. They regularly work in partnership with Falmouth University and Truro and Penryn College to offer students professional curatorial and exhibition experience.
The team also run weekly creative social groups for the local community. Meet & Make supports mental health and wellbeing with people referred from the local social prescribing team. Tea, Cake & Art is for anyone aged over 65 and aims to tackle loneliness and isolation.
Gray’s Wharf provides an essential platform for local and regional artists to showcase their work in Cornwall. Sign up to their newsletter to find out more.
CAST (Cornubian Arts & Science Trust) is a studio complex and not-for-profit art centre housed in a late-nineteenth-century school building in the centre of Helston. The building provides studios for some twenty artists, as well as a dedicated events space/screening space for artist’s moving image, a ceramics studio and an excellent café. CAST delivers an extensive learning programme for primary schools, free holiday workshops, and a regular Saturday club for young people aged twelve to sixteen. Find out more through their newsletter.
The next day, with her VASW hat back on, Hannah headed to Newlyn and The Exchange Galleries to meet Cat Gibbard, their Programme Curator & Learning Lead.
The two spaces, located in Penzance and Newlyn, offer a mix of exhibitions which are often split across both sites. Four core annual exhibitions showcase regional, national and international artists at different stages of their careers, with an ongoing interest in democratising the selection process for the artwork presented.
The current exhibition, I Chose This, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, brings together artworks across both galleries that have been on loan to nine primary schools across West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through a major schools and teachers programme. This ambitious project saw children select work from the Arts Council and Cornwall Council Schools Collection to exhibit and engage with in their own school environment, before seeing it exhibited in the galleries.
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Up the hill from The Exchange is Hweg, an independent gallery space run out of a disused shop by Joe Lyward, who lives above the gallery and also works as a learning facilitator for different arts organisations, including Tate St Ives and The Box, Plymouth.
Hweg’s small-scale shop front space brings high quality visual art to the high street, presenting work by local, national and international artists in solo and group exhibitions.
Hweg also offers artists the opportunity to sell their work to visitors, driving essential income and placing art in people’s homes.
Follow Hweg on Instagram to find out more
Next Hannah travelled to Redruth to visit Krowji, Cornwall’s largest creative hub, providing 135 studios, workspaces, meeting rooms and other services for a diverse range of creative practitioners and businesses. Whilst she was there, Hannah visited the studios of artists SHARP, Eleanor Turnbull and Jeweller and Silversmith Nicola Bottono.
Krowji supports diverse creative practices, crossing art forms and working hard to support tenants in a multitude of ways. Look out for their popular Open Studios held in the summer and at Christmas, their micro-markets and ‘fun palace’ creative making events. They have also just launched G12 Krowji, a contemporary arts space for hire.
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Finally Hannah headed into Redruth to meet artist and organiser Liam Jolly. Liam runs Auction House, which, as well as housing his own artist studio, presents exhibitions, residencies and events that support artists to experiment and publically present their work.
Auction House is currently closed due to major renovation works to the building. They are due to reopen in summer 2024 and we can't wait to see what’s coming up in the programme!
Follow them on Instagram to find out more.
Closeby to Auction House is CMR project space, run by artist Alice Mahoney. CMR houses a residency space with simple on-site accommodation, artists studios and a music studio. With the building's legacy as Cornwall Media Resource, CMR has a particular interest in practice at the intersection of film, media and sound.
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Round the corner from CMR is Back Lane West, an artist-led residency, project and meeting space. Established in 2009, BLW has hosted artists from all over the world, whilst also providing a critical testing space and platform for South West based artists.
French artist Simon Feydieu is in residence for July, and a new exhibition programme 'AH x BLW' in collaboration with Auction House began in June with Becky Tyrrell's 'The Last Raceway'. More shows to be announced soon.
To apply for a residency and find out more about their programme check out their website
For the final stage of Hannah’s July trips, she travelled to Bideford to meet with the Director of The Burton, Patrizia Ribul; before heading off to meet with Co-Founder of Studio Kind, Laura Porter, and Engagement and Outreach Manager Sharon Gale.
The Burton at Bideford is a Museum, Gallery, Café and shop located on the edge of the town’s central park. Their busy programme includes 12 core exhibitions per year, with a mission to showcase great art in rural communities. Alongside touring exhibitions, including the current show Revealing the Human Form, featuring work by artists from Henry Moore to Ryan Gander; The Burton offers opportunities for local artists to present their work through annual opens, and environment focussed commissions
With a rich history of ceramics production in the area, the Museum presents a permanent ceramics exhibition from their collection, and invites contemporary artists to make new work in response to this.
30 minutes away in Braunton is Studio KIND an artist-run gallery space who present work by local and national early-career and established artists, and work to nurture the contemporary art scene in North Devon.
Entirely project funded, Studio KIND is a lifeline for many artists in the area and wider region, with solo shows alongside open call group exhibitions. They also offer their space for hire, driving essential income and creating a platform to the local community.
During the height of the pandemic when their gallery had to close, Studio KIND turned to creating virtual exhibitions and have kept this in place for their core curated programme, widening access and reaching outwards to their often dispersed rural audience.