Artists Open Studios in West Berkshire and North Hampshire
The Open Studios in West Berkshire and North Hampshire has run annually in May since 1988. Though its primary purpose is to provide a platform for the public to meet artists in their own work spaces, and perhaps buy some of the artists' work, OS WBNH extends beyond that with several “outreach” activities, including a schools education program and free public workshops, not to mention the various exhibitions held throughout the year.
It takes a lot of work to make this all happen, and it's all done by volunteers.
I spoke to the chair of the committee, John Brazendale. This is John's first year as chair , but he's been involved with the scheme for many years. John himself is a ceramicist, a graduate of St Martin's College, London, and a former teacher.
I joined the scheme last year, not long after its founder Pat Eastop died. I never met her. Knowing that she was key to understanding OS WBNH, I asked John about Pat, who was also a school teacher.
I knew Pat for over 40 years. I joined her committee soon after I retired and we worked together, developing the scheme. She worked 24/7 on Open Studios, it was 'her baby', she knew every artist and she wanted to help each and every one of them to produce their best work and give them the opportunity to show it.
But it didn't end there...
What strikes me more and more this year is the range of activities we offer the community. This is a major part of [Pat's] legacy, which we intend to continue. Over the past year I've researched how other schemes work. I don't know of any other that offers what OS WBNH does.
One of the factors that sets WB&NHOS apart is its reputation for quality. This starts with the artists, who have all been accredited by the committee. I asked, “How do the committee make those difficult selection decisions?”
The OS WBNH Accreditation Process is a long process which most schemes don't use. Pat felt very strongly that the standards of OS must be maintained.
The artist submits three pieces of work, wich are displayed at New Greenham Arts.
Five or six committee members who have gone through the Art School system scrutinise the art works and the supporting documentation. They use the criteria agreed by the committee and work independently in their decisions before casting their votes. Borderline candidates will be discussed in detail.
19 new artists were accredited last year. One artist was asked to reapply for 2017. When this happens, I offer a meeting with the artist to explain our decision.
People have said to me, how can they do that? It's so subjective!
I'm afraid they don't understand how we judge the quality of art works. They're probably not aware of the criteria we use to make decisions. Everyone can say 'I like that'. What everybody can't do is decide if it's a good piece of art work, whether they like it or not.
It's easy to allow every artist into a scheme, far less work, far less effort.
This is where some people get confused, 'I like it' doesn't mean it's good art.
There are a lot of very talented artists involved in the scheme. It is a vibrant, sociable and diverse organisation that enthuses and inspires its members, helping them produce art to the best of their abilities, art that is worth seeing and owning. It's no wonder that OS WBNH is held in high regard.
What's on in West Berkshire and North Hampshire
Open Studios 2016 runs 30 April to 22 May.
The 2016 Web site and directory will be published on 2 April 2016. The directory can be downloaded from the Web site or picked up in hard copy from libraries and other public places in the West Berkshire and North Hampshire area.
The key event is INSIGHT, the central showcase exhibition at New Greenham Arts, where you can see work by every participating artist. The show is usually eclectic but well presented in the dedicated gallery space. INSIGHT attracts over 1100 visitors each year.
There will also be several Satellite Exhibitions around the area. Venues include the Watermill Theatre, Arlington Arts, Newbury Library and Open Hand Open Space in Reading. Exhibitions may be solo or group shows, including work done by local schools as well as Open Studio artists. New this year is the North Hampshire Artists exhibition at Sherfield Park near Basingstoke.
(Organised by Anne Jones and by independent groups of Open Studios artists)
West Berkshire Museum in Newbury will once again be hosting the Cover 2 Cover exhibition, now in its fourth year. This will be the culmination of several months' work using themed sketchbooks, exchanged between artists, and the results are usually astounding as the artists push their imagination and abilities to keep up with the challenge.
(Organised by Isabel Carmona)
Free Open Studio Workshops will be held across the area during May and June. They are fully subscribed every year. Details are announced with the publication of the directory on 2 April.
(Organised by Jane Vaidya)
North Hampshire Artists: https://nhantsart.wordpress.com/
John Brazendale: http://www.thecloudstudio.org/