Art for All Seasons at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village

Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village (WGAV) has launched a series of activities to celebrate its Art for All Community learning programme.

Inspired by the charity’s founders – the great Victorian artist George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817-1904) and his wife, the artist and designer Mary Watts (1849 -1938) – who believed that access to art could improve people’s lives, the Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village Art for All Community learning programme delivers artist-led workshops to socially excluded and vulnerable groups, enabling the development of new and transferable skills in order to build self-confidence and contribute to rehabilitation.

The Art for All Community learning programme is ordinarily celebrated with an annual exhibition, through which participants are able to sell their work.  As Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is currently closed in response to the Government’s guidance on COVID-19, this year the celebration moves online and includes:

  • A showcase of artwork created by Art for All Community participants over the past year, with an opportunity to hear from some of the participants who have taken part.  Through artist-led workshops, Watts Gallery Trust creates access to the transformative powers of art for diverse groups, including women prisoners, young offenders, young people with a learning disability and families living in challenging circumstances;
  • The launch of The Limner Collection, a brand new range of products featuring designs by Art for All Community participants available to buy through the Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village online shop.  Taking its name from Limnerslease, the artists’ house, all profits raised through the sale of Limner Collection pieces will go back to the participants and will help towards the on-going costs of delivering the Art for All Community learning programme*;
  • A series of online workshops and activities inspired by the Art for All Community learning programme and available for everyone at home to enjoy.

Although the Artists’ Village is currently closed, the Art for All Community learning programme has been continuing remotely, through virtual workshops and the provision of artists’ materials to enable participation. Taking the art and ideas of GF and Mary Watts as its starting point, over recent weeks the programme has explored GF Watts’s iconic painting Hope (1886) as an enduring source of inspiration, with participants creating their own responses to what hope means at the current time.

Over the past year, there have been 2094 participations in the Art for All Community learning programme and:

  • 36 participants have achieved Arts Awards;
  • 2 participants have gained freelance employment at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village;
  • Monthly Dementia Workshops have been added to the programme;
  • New partnerships have been established with Woking Women’s Centre, the Park Barn Centre, Surrey County Council Youth Services and Syrian Refugees.

A report, Art for All by Dr Helen Bowcock (published December 2019), shows how the programme meets the needs of diverse groups across the community.

Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said:

“GF and Mary Watts shared a commitment to create access to art and to craft for people who would not ordinarily have this opportunity.  This was their vision for the community here in Compton and today we uphold their founding mission to provide Art for All.”

“For many of our participants, Art for All is a lifeline in their well-being, helping to build self-confidence and a sense of community.  Now more than ever before there is a vital need for our programme and I want to thank the Watts Gallery staff and volunteers whose tireless efforts are ensuring that those who need it most are still able to reap the wide-reaching benefits of art and creativity.”

“Today, the Community programme is the flagship of our wider reaching Art for All learning programme, which in 2019/2020 delivered over 30,000 participations in learning activities for visitors, students, schools and many more. Please join with us in celebrating the achievements of our wonderful Art for All Community participants over the past year and please support us if you are able to help us to continue our life-changing programme.”

Caroline Marcus, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Group for Education in Museums, said:

“Watts Gallery is an exemplar of a socially engaged but practical mission, they live and breathe the mission of community engagement.  It is exactly what we talk about, how to change lives.”

 Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village closed its doors temporarily on 19 March in response to the developing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and public health guidance. The loss of income from visitor admissions, group tours, the shop, Tea Shop, commercial gallery and events as a result of this closure is anticipated to result in a deficit of at least £300,000 this year.  The charity has launched a fundraising appeal, Hope 2020, and is seeking support:  https://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/hope2020/

The Art for All season is available at at www.wattsgallery.org.uk  and can be followed through the Trust’s social media channels: @WattsGallery  facebook/thewattsgallery 

Once reopened, prints, paintings and ceramics made by Art for All Community learning programme participants will be displayed at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village in a series of spotlight displays over the coming year.

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