Posted 13th July 2011
Watts Contemporary Gallery
Watts Gallery has now been open for nearly a month. During this time we have received nearly 1,500 people each week with the Tea Shop receiving record numbers of visitors. The overall reaction continues to be one of surprise on discovering the luminosity of Watts’s paintings and the warmth of the rich red and green walls, together with a delight in finding the old and the new.
Looking back over the past month of exciting opening events, perhaps one which touched me most was the launch of the Isabel Goldsmith Patiño Gallery. The ‘green gallery’ as it was known, has been lovingly restored to now display the masterpieces from the Watts Collection. Isabel Goldsmith has been the patron of the Watts Gallery Hope Appeal. She has lead from the front in offering a very generous pledge which has inspired others to give. She has opened her home for fundraising events and she has supported in many other ways. She has visited the Gallery on many occasions to advise on the particular choice of colours for the Gallery and on the treatment of the gold and silver arches. Her personal interest has resulted in a wonderfully warm, handsome exhibitions Gallery enhanced by the new lantern designed by ZMMA. Isabel Goldsmith, who is also a Trustee of the Watts Gallery Trust, has named the Gallery in memory of her mother, Isabella Maria Patino, (1935 – 1954) who died tragically in childbirth aged 19. Isabel Goldsmith cut the ribbon (above) in to her Gallery in front of a group of over 200 guests on the eve of the public re-opening of Watts Gallery. She spoke movingly about her mother, Isabella Patiño (1935-1954), and we feel most honoured that Watts Gallery has such an inspirational space for visitors to enjoy Watts and for Isabel Goldsmith’s mother to be honoured.
In contrast, today, I attended the judging of a bronze award for one of the participants in our Big Issues Project, a young personworking with Surrey Youth Justice Service. Part of the assessment required the candidate to interview me on my role at Watts Gallery. In discussion I asked my interviewee her feelings about the impact of art. Her answer was simple but poignant “When times are bad, being able to do art is life saving”. This one sentence captured the essence of the art for all programme and the vision of Watts and Mary Watts on which our work with young offenders, reformed drug users,homeless and women prisoners is founded.
The next chapter of the Watts Story became stronger with a wonderful evening held in Great Studio when the artist currently occupying Great Studio, Alexander Creswell, and Oliver Everett, the Royal Librarian Emeritus, discussed the restoration of Windsor Castle. Sitting in Watts’s Great Studio, surrounded by art, and with an audience interested in art and heritage, the building came alive with the spirit and energy of its founders. To return Great Studio and the Watts’s house Limnerslease to the public domain would enable many more such events for the public enjoyment and participation.
Finally, I would like to thank all those who have made the re-opening of Watts Gallery possible. To our ever generous donors, particularly the Heritage Lottery Fund, the volunteers who are now coveringover 300 shifts every week, the gardeners who are tending the new planted beds, the staff who are working so hard, and our neighbours who are living alongside this reawakening of Watts and Watts Gallery – a big thank you.