Directors Blog: Looking towards Spring and Saving the Studios

Posted by Admin on 18 Feb 2014, 1:03 p.m.

When the purple crocuses start to appear on the lawn outside Watts Gallery, Spring becomes a possibility. It also marks a new exhibition. John Ruskin: Photographer and Draughtsman is the first exhibition which demonstrates theinvolvement and care of the Watts Brice Curator, Dr Nicholas Tromans. With Stephen Wildman, the Director of the Ruskin Centre, Nicholas has chosen to provide a very rare showing of Ruskin's daguerrotypes, early photographs on copper plates, taken during his travels in Europe. They provide a detailed insight into the world which Ruskin wished to occupy, beautiful objects, real craftsmanship and available to all. The exhibition has also received positive reviews from both the Financial Times and The Independent, with The Independent describing the Ruskin exhibition as, ‘A brilliant, bijou exhibition’.

In parallel, the Old Pottery Gallery on the Watts Gallery Estate is showing the Big Issues exhibition, until the end of March, showing the work of young offenders, homeless people, those with mental health difficulties and prisoners. The works are moving both from their choice of subject and for the story which lies behind. Already 15 of the pieces have been sold. A purchase could change the artists' view of their self worth as well as provide purchasors with a worthwhile piece of art!

Watts Gallery Trustees were thrilled to receive the news of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the campaign to save the Watts Studios. We are immensely grateful to everyone who has pledged monies to help us get this far, and for all our Friends, volunteers and neighbours who have worked so hard and been so patient. With the monies secured we can commence work, but we still need to raise more funds to unlock the HLF grant.

Recently we have been speaking with supporters about the possibility of leaving a legacy gift to Watts Gallery Trust. In these conversations it became clear thatmany people were unaware that Watts Gallery Trust is entirely independent and has to rely year on year on earned income, fundraising and return on investments. There is no state aid, no guaranteed income, no permanent source of support. To undertake our work on the Big Issues project, to provide free entry to children and young people and to provide the learning to schools, adults and families costs Watts Gallery Trust over£100,000 each year. It is only thanks to Trusts and Foundations,individuals and income from the Tea Shop and the Shop, that we are able to offer Art for All.

It was a delight to hear the speech from John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and social entrepreneur, who opened the Ruskin and the Big Issues exhibitions. It was art that changed his life and he is passionate about Victorian art in particular. His article was in this week's Big Issue and I am certain that Watts would have been delighted to be mentioned in such an inspiring context.

As Spring approaches, we are also becoming aware of the amount of gardening we need to do to maintain the lovely gardens around the Gallery and the pottery, as well as to undertake work on the woodland and gardens around the Watts studio. We have a brilliant team of three gardeners and we are looking for a few more. If anyone would like to revive their green fingers, enjoy some tea and cake, and good company, we would be very grateful for offers of help! If you are interested in volunteering in the Watts Gallery gardens please contact, Alex Hutchings, Visitor Services Manager by emailing visitorservices@wattsgallery.org.uk.