Shaftesbury Art Centre Previewing This Year’s Gallery Artists

Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s Gallery is giving us a preview of the artists they are hosting this year. And there’s a chance for you to win prizes with your Shaftesbury or snowdrop inspired art, too.

The Chinese celebrate New Year on the 5th of February. The Tax Office officially start their new year on the 6th April. And for Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s Gallery, their 2019 programme starts on Thursday 17th January. That’s the first day of their Welcome ’19 event.

Gallery manager Kate Pickard says the public will get a taster of all the exhibitions planned for the rest of the year. Each exhibitor can display two pieces, which represent their style. “On average, we will have about 60 or 65 pieces of work,” Kate said.

Sometimes groups of artists book exhibitions together. If more than two people are collaborating, Kate says they’ll need to toss coins or draw straws to see who gets wall space. “And fortunately for us, we leave that to the organisers of the groups. They must allocate who’s going to enter and what they’re going to enter. We don’t get involved in that. It’s far too much trouble!” said Kate.

Kate Pickard

All of the artists will arrive on Bell Street with their work on the Sunday before the Welcome show. Kate says it is surprisingly orderly and organised. That’s because the artist are given strict guidelines.

“We do have a size limit,” said Kate. “So we aren’t going to be faced with six-foot canvasses. I think the maximum size is about one metre square. But obviously, if somebody brings in something that’s an A4 piece, then it’s much easier to fit it into a little space than an A3 or even larger piece of work.”

And it’s not just painting or photography that will feature in the gallery and the Welcome ‘19 event. “We’ll have 3D work, and not always pottery. We have all sorts of things – wood carving, jewellery. It is quite a mixture.” Kate says there are ‘quite a few’ new exhibitors in 2019. “A lot are regulars who either exhibit every year or every other year.”

In 2018, Shaftesbury certainly stepped up its arts offer. Dorset Arts Weeks remains a popular way for artists to open their homes or workshops to showcase their art. But Andrea Jenkins’ and Karren Burkett’s ‘Shaftesbury Group’ initiative has further boosted our town’s reputation as a creative enclave. Their monthly Town Hall local art showcases have proved immensely popular.

Kate’s delighted. She doesn’t view this new departure as competition for the Shaftesbury Arts Centre Gallery in any way. She says that ‘The Shaftesbury Group’ shows complement her own exhibitions, which can feature artists from all over the Westcountry and as far away as London.

“From our point of view it’s great to put Shaftesbury on the map as somewhere where, if you to buy art, you can come to Andrea’s Fridays. It means there are two really good places where you can see a mixture of art that you probably didn’t think happened round here.”

And Kate believes that art lovers will travel to Shaftesbury if artists put some effort into publicising what they are doing and when. “Artists who really work hard at their social media will get people from all sorts of places,” said Kate. “Last year we had an exhibition of textiles and we had people from Devon, Somerset and Hampshire specifically for that exhibition. We do try and promote as many people as we can, but we do ask the artists to do a bit of work towards it as well, because they’ve got their own databases. They can email or do Facebook with their interested people.”

Welcome ‘19 runs between 17th January and 2nd February at the Shaftesbury Arts Centre. It’s open between 10am and 4pm each day, including Sundays. You can also buy the art that’s displayed.

There are two additional opportunities for both keen amateurs and professionals to display and sell their work at the gallery this year. In May, you’ll be able to submit your Shaftesbury-related artwork and you could win a prize with it. And the Arts Centre Gallery is again hosting an exhibition to dovetail with the Shaftesbury Snowdrop season. Over 100 snowdrop-related art works were displayed last year. Any art that features a snowdrop is eligible.

“If you bring it in and as long as your work meets our requirements, in that it can be hung on the wall safely, you’re in,” said Kate. “For last year’s Snowdrops event, I think the youngest entrant was about six years of age.”

Every other year, the Arts Centre Gallery hosts the ‘Portrait of Shaftesbury’ exhibition. The gallery team partners with a town group or organisation in deciding a theme. “We’ve worked with the Tree Group. We’ve done the Bee Group. This year we’re doing Gold Hill Museum and the subject is ‘Shaftesbury Past and Present’. Whatever you see, whether you want to focus on something that’s old in the town, it’s really up to you how you interpret it,” said Kate.

There will be prizes for both of these open access ‘Portrait of Shaftesbury’ and ‘Snowdrops’ contests. Gallery visitors are encouraged to vote for the work they like the most. “It’s a way of getting people involved in the pictures and looking around,” said Kate. “They can’t just walk in and walk out. They vote. It’s not compulsory, but we like to think they would like to. We’ve had some lovely experiences of couples having an argument. So you give them a pencil each and they’re quite happy.”

And in the meantime, keen artists are reminded to pick up their pencils, pens or paints and create art inspired by the our town’s 180,000 planted snowdrops by 3rd February. You’ll need to bring your piece to the Arts Centre between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday 3rd February. The public gets to view all of the snowdrop artwork from the 8th to 17th of February. The entry rules are on the Shaftesbury Arts Centre website.