The Home Strait of the Re-opening
As we approach the home strait of the re-opening of Watts Gallery following a two and a half year restoration, there is a feeling of mounting excitement tinged with panic. Today has been an excellent example. The green dress worn by Virginia Dalrymple in the painting by Watts has been returned after conservation generously supported by Denise Topolski and NADFAS and is now sitting on a specially made model beside the painting. The handsome fittings, desks, and shelves have arrived for the Watts Visitor Centre and are being erected to display the new shop stock. The green ceramic tiles on the gables have been completed and now look extremely handsome. The Curator took over 40 volunteers round the Gallery for their first induction. The Fundraising Manager, Stephanie Dennison is doing final checks that all our generous donors and benefactors are listed on the boards and producing a book of photographs showing Watts Gallery before and after the restoration. The Estate Assistants are busily watering all the recently planted beds, so generously tended by the volunteers.
Today saw the unveiling of the final outcome of the community arts project in Park Barn, an area of Guildford where there are a number of social issues. This is the result of over two years of work, and has resulted in a number of ceramic pebbles being produced by all kinds of different age groups and interest groups in the community. It is nice to see how our Gallery without Walls project has left legacies in different areas and has also reinforced Watts’s principle of Art for All. Returning to my desk from the unveiling I look at the display being prepared on Hope and read the back of the cigarette card, part of the display, which carries a short description of George Frederic Watts. I quote ‘he gave of himself and he gave of his art’. This summarises his art for all principles.
What will our Friends think when’ as the first visitors, they see Watts Gallery for the first time this weekend? I hope they will see the extraordinary efforts and support that this jewel of our national heritage has attracted and join me in thanking all those who have given so much to enable art for all in this hollow of the Surrey hills, in the only purpose built art gallery for a single professional artist. We shall see.