Directors Blog: The Big Give, Christmas Shopping and Artists Colloquium
Seeing the woodlands turn gold along the Hog’s Back and on the Pilgrims’ Way, reminds visitors to Watts Gallery of the reason for Watts choosing this hollow in the Surrey Hills as the place for his autumn studio. The richness of the colours must have lifted his moods after the darkness of the fogs in London and subsequently infused many of the paintings which he composed in the Watts studio such as Progress, Can these bones live? and After the Deluge, works which are on show in Watts Gallery, are redolent of the autumn colours which brighten the countryside, until the next storm!
Hosting the colloquium on artist studio house museums with a view to establishing an international network, was a stimulating experience. Talking with counterparts from the Gallen- Kallela Museum in Finland, or Max Liebermann museum in Germany, Francis Bacon’s studio in Dublin, the Rubens Museum in Antwerp, Vassily Polenovo Museum in Russia, the Henry Moore Foundation and the Museum of Antoine Bourdelle in Paris, it was fascinating to discover the shared challenges. How does one bring back the spirit of the founding artist? How do you retain an atmosphere a century on? What is the recipe for a successful Tea Shop? The result of the colloquium was confirmation that all participants wanted a network to share research, exhibitions, staff internships and marketing. Limnerslease, the Watts house and studio, could now be on an international map! As the Curator pointed out, sitting down to supper with the Director of the Pushkin museum on one side and a local resident of Compton on the other – captured the essence of the Watts vision of sharing great art with the local community in which the Gallery and house and studio are based. We shall always continue to work to make this relationship endure and be enjoyed.
The last month has seen over 200 school children from a primary school in Liss visit Watts Gallery. A full class of over 30 pupils visit for a whole morning. They learnt about different aspects of the collection, undertook some drawings, visited the Chapel and make use of the Old Kiln to have their refreshments. The Head Teacher has decided that the whole school will enjoy this opportunity class by class. Watts Gallery is honoured to have this level of interest and support. The Gallery and Limnerslease were also visited by 30 architecture students from the University for the Creative Arts who are fascinated to undertake projects on the architecture and on the restoration work we hope will be underway on the Watts Studio next year.
All this work and all these opportunities would not be possible without the generosity and support of our donors, friends and volunteers. In December we launch the Big Give and it is once again the Hazelhurst Trust which has made it possible for us to seek to find matching funds to support our Art for All programme. We are immensely grateful and humbled by this vital support for our work. Many people are surprised to hear that we receive no State funding whatsoever, and we have to earn or raise every pound we spend. Thank you to all those who give.
There are many exciting events in December including a Christmas concert on Monday 16 December, and an opportunities for families to come and enjoy making Victorian Decorations on 14 December. There is always an opportunity to give your dear ones a Friends membership for Christmas! The Watts Gallery Shop will be open every day of the week during December, so drop in and purchase some Christmas cards or presents.