OPENING UP THE NARRATIVE

Watts Gallery - Artists’ Village, Guildford

On 25th September I joined 40 peers representing artists’ studios and artist's homes Europe-wide for an exhilarating day of conversation and sharing of ideas and experiences. Sidney Nolan’s Studio at The Rodd is the newest member of the network, so there was much to take on board.

On an ‘atmospheric’ early Autumn day, our conversations started as we toured the Artists’ Village and heard about how it has been brought back to life – the beautiful Gallery showing GF Watt’s paintings and sculpture was built by Mary Watts as a hostel for apprentices in her pottery; the extraordinary Watts Chapel, with terracotta exterior (created by villagers recruited to Mary’s pottery evening classes) and exquisite gesso panelled interior; and Limnerslease, the Arts and Crafts house that George and Mary built in 1891. Limnerslease was in private hands for many years, but has now been rescued for the charity. George’s studio is beautifully presented, along with displays telling Mary’s story; on the ground floor, the in-house conservator has a studio and school and other groups can use the Clore Learning Space for practical / creative sessions. One new project for incoming director Alistair Burtenshaw is to curate the landscape that surrounds and connects the Artists' Village buildings. 

Our discussions in the afternoon covered the big subjects such as different approaches to ‘opening up the narrative’ about your artist, and the pros and cons of curating temporary exhibitions alongside the Studio offering, to the mundane but essential, such as how to monitor visitor access to a large, multi-centre site, and that we should all check reviews of our site on Trip Advisor.  It was a particular privilege to hear from those representing Musée Delacroix, Musée Rodin and Musée Bourdelle in Paris, Museo Sorolla in Madrid, Polenovo in Russia and the Johannes Larsen Museum in Denmark and I had fascinating chats with staff from London’s newly-opened Turner’s House, the David Parr House in Cambridge, Charleston and the National Trust.  Dr Nick Tromans, Alistair Burtenshaw and Kirsten Tambling were brilliant hosts for the day and I’m also very grateful to Nick and Kirsten for offering invaluable advice as we opened Sidney’s Studio this summer.  Now I just need to plan how to get to visit as many of these wonderful studios and artist’s homes as I can in the coming months.

Amanda Fitzwilliams

http://artiststudiomuseum.org/   https://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/

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