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Blog: Blog2

Planning my members' exhibition

Parabola Art Centre 24 – 28 October 2023: Sharing some thoughts and considerations

This exhibition will be the fifth one I’ve put on during the October half term. It doesn’t get any easier, but each time I’ve done it I feel refreshed and revitalised and very happy to be working with my member artists.

Every year it’s planned and put together in a very short time. I'd like more time, but I've got used to pulling it together quickly. I also have members who are willing to get involved with only 3 or 4 weeks notice. I’m very grateful to the Commercial team at Cheltenham Ladies College, the staff at Parabola Arts Centre and the Principal, Eve Jardine Young for accommodating and supporting us to be there. I recognise it’s a privilege, and one that can only be finalised a short time in advance.

Every year I’m proud of the individual works and how they all fit together on the gallery walls. As I write, we haven’t yet hung this year’s exhibition, but I’m confident that it will look good.! Over the years my confidence to curate has grown, whilst I still value the knowledge of those artists who have been putting on exhibitions for 10 or 20 years. As we haven't yet hung this exhibition, the pictures are reminders of exhibitions past. If you see a picture you really want to know more about do ask me - I may be able to put you in touch with the artist.

I always enjoy seeing the artists support each other, both practically and emotionally. I understand why artists are sometimes wrapped up in their own work and focussed on their own needs (as we all are at times! ) but Living from Art is deliberately open to any artists who want to sell their work and I aim to support them all, and encourage them to support each other. There really is strength in being part of an inclusive, kind, community.

Shop or Gallery?

The galleries at PAC are beautiful. It is a wonderful opportunity to see art displayed in this wonderful setting, but it is not a regular gallery space that people are in the habit of visiting regularly so we have to work very hard to invite and tempt people to visit during our exhibition. I believe increasing the number of people who are willing to look at art and sometimes buy it is essential, given the number of talented artists living and working in Gloucestershire.

It can take time for someone to build up to the idea of spending serious money to own art. For some buying a card, scarf or mug, cushion or jewellery from an artist they know and love is a step towards that. For others it will be just a small treat that means much more than a mass-produced item. Selling cards and merchandise is certainly an essential part of financing the exhibition for many artists. I really hope that every visitor is aware of the Just a movement - a grass roots campaign to encourage people to support, value and buy small items from artists and makers, and in so doing help them to keep going.

Pics of cards and merchan

The challenge for me and all of the artists is to make sure that the art on the walls looks good, whether its one or two big pieces or a much more ambitious hanging of multiple pieces. It's also a balance between making the cards, merchandise and prints easily available and accessible, without making the spaces look cluttered. Please do visit and tell me if you think we have met our aims of creating a very lovely pop up gallery and shop, well worth a visit.

One of the advantages of having a very mixed group of artists is that they each have a different group of people to invite to the exhibition. It’s so important for an artist to develop a ‘following’ of people who love their work, but that can start with personal invites to friends, colleagues and all the other people we meet. I’ve found that most people are pleased to be asked to come along to the exhibition and are happy to help us spread the word, we just need to ask them. And I want every visitor to feel welcome and comfortable looking at the art, and maybe enjoying a cup of coffee and a biscuit whilst they browse, who ever they are. I was delighted that some people from one of the Care Centres where we have our arts on the walls enjoyed visiting our recent private view and gave us some really thoughtful feedback. I hope even more residents will visit us this time.

I think we are all acutely aware of the difficult and challenging times for so many in this country and around the world. It’s easy to think that art is a superfluous luxury, and we should be focussing our attention on all the really difficult things we need to change. I have to hold on to the belief that looking at art can bring a moment of joy – or indeed a life time of pleasure when we take it home. It can calm us or give us energy. It encourages conversation and communication between different people and supports us in difficult times. In return we need to support and value the people who make the art we love. All our worlds would be sadder without it.

I look forward to welcoming as many people as possible to this exhibition. I hope you enjoy the art, meeting the artists and just maybe finding a piece of art to fall in love with.

Anna Poulton Living from Art 19.10.23


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