Director's Blog: Watts Gallery in April
A visitor came to Watts Gallery yesterday and said that the most magical moment in his day was discovering the bank of golden buttercups along Down Lane arriving at Watts Gallery. I also saw one visitor spend ten minutes just looking at the flowerbeds around Watts Gallery. It is delightful to see that Watts Gallery offers pleasure inside with its collection and exhibition and warm welcome from its volunteers, as well outside with the woodland, the wildflowers and the beautiful cultivated flower beds. The team of volunteer gardeners who have each adopted a bed make this possible.
Next week sees another milestone in the Watts journey in Compton. The opening of an extended shop, which will allow Watts Gallery Trading to show and sell bigger products such as the famous replica Mary Watts carpet, the Watts bench, the Mary Watts pots and offer the visitor some more ranges of unique products! Upstairs in the Old Pottery Gallery we host another new selling exhibition of ceramics from a Stoke family- run pottery, Lyngard. Both developments are in keeping with the founding vision and enterprise of Watts and Mary Watts – we must make and sell, learn and act to foster art for all. In addition such enterprise must enhance and give back to the local community. The Old Pottery, an enterprise zone, seeks to support the core activities of the Watts Gallery Trust – providing exhibitions, delivering far reaching learning programmes and preserving the heritage of the 19th Century.
This week Compton Parish Council held the annual village meeting in Watts Gallery. It was wonderful to see a turn out of more than 100 people sharing village news of the fete, traffic calming, the allotments, the church, development plans, amateur dramatics and of course the gallery plans over a delicious supper and glass of wine. Watts Gallery Trust can only say that we offer a national gallery in the heart of a village if we maintain and foster the relationship with the local community to ensure that we support each others’ endeavours and preserve this special green oasis. Many of the village residents are regular gallery visitors and volunteers. However, it was delightful to discover some first-time visitors and to hear the gasp as it was revealed that Watts’s first wife was Ellen Terry. There are still some stories to be shared!
There has been some continuing change of team members and some new recruits at Watts Gallery, but with each new joiner, there are new ideas, new energy and new developments. This is welcome. When I think that ten years ago there was just three people who were employed by Watts Gallery Trust and they were the only people who knew anything about the collection. Now there are 15 equivalent full time paid staff, and another 20 or so working with the trading company, 300 volunteers and over 30 or so interns and apprentices who carry knowledge and insight into the Watts legacy. As Watts predicted he might not have been appreciated for 100 years or so following his death, but perhaps now his time is coming. We continue to be so grateful to all those who support our endeavours and continue to show such faith and generosity in our efforts to deliver art for all and to save the Watts house and studios.