Watchet will, once again, be a key destination during Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2017 (23 September to 8 October), the annual, county-wide art trail celebrating the visual arts. Three venues in the centre of Watchet are open daily and the town is a great base for exploring other West Somerset venues, clustered nearby around Crowcombe, Washford, Williton and Old Cleeve and westward to Minehead and Exmoor.
‘New Wave’, an exhibition curated by Toni Davey, at Contains Art’s gallery, on Watchet’s harbourside, promises to be a highlight of the festival. In a reunion of alumni from West Somerset College, the exhibition presents the work of more than 30 professional artists, designers and makers who are carving out successful careers in a range of creative fields, after beginning their education in the Arts at The West Somerset College. Work is linked through themes suggested by Katsushika Hokusai’s iconic woodcut print ‘The Great Wave’. A must-see for young people contemplating a career in the arts the show also invites reflection on the future of art education in England.
Alongside New Wave, Contains Art opens its studios, with work on view by resident artists Sue Lowe (printmaking), Georgina Towler (painting), Valerie Berry (ceramics and painting) and guests Cecilia Leete (jewellery) and Adam Grose (painting and print).
Just a short walk away, in Anchor Street, Watchet’s planned new Radio Museum is the venue for five more local artists: Jill Newton (illustration), Scarlet von Teazel (multimedia), Martyn Lintern (sculpture), Jenny Barron (painting) and Jan Martin (printmaker) present work exploring the world of broadcasting and communication under the exhibition title ‘Echoes … Currents…’.
All work is on sale at reasonable prices, but visitors are welcome to just browse and chat, finding out more about the artists working in and around the town.
Several events during the fortnight help to celebrate the creative festival:
Friday 22 September, 6 – 8pm, is the launch event for ‘New Wave’. All are welcome to come to Contains Art to meet artists taking part and enjoy a glass of wine and a relaxed look at the exciting work on display in the gallery and studios.
A community event on 23 September, 2-5pm, offers papermaking and paper-craft activities for children and families, plus music, food and drinks for all enjoy. This forms part of the ongoing heritage project, involving a number of Watchet organisations in celebrating the history of Wansbrough Paper Mill. The heritage exhibition, launched last week, continues on The Esplanade and in the Watchet Market House Museum throughout September.
Also on Saturday 23 September the artists at the Radio Museum have an evening opening, from 6pm. All welcome.
Sunday 1 October is Watchet’s regular, monthly Street Fair. There will be stalls on The Esplanade selling crafts, produce, food and snacks. Visitors are welcome to relax in Contains Art’s courtyard during the day.
On the evening of Tuesday 3 October, at 7.30pm, presentations and talks about the New Wave exhibition will offer further insights into the work on show, the artists represented and the case for the Arts in education. At Watchet Methodist Church Schoolrooms.
During the final weekend of the festival, 7-8 October, venues are encouraged to offer Family-Friendly activities. In Watchet a town trail guide, with questions and puzzles to solve, will be available on Saturday 7 October to take families on a treasure hunt walk around the town, encouraging curiosity about all the many things that artists do.
All in all there is something for everyone in Watchet during Somerset Art Weeks 2017.
All three Watchet Art Weeks venues are open daily throughout the festival, 11am to 6pm.
School and group visits are welcome, please let Contains Art know in advance. An education pack for New Wave is available on request.
The Arts Weeks Festival Guide is available now at Contains Art and Watchet Visitor Centre or can be downloaded here. somersetartworks.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/SAW_GUIDE_2017-email.pdf
Pictured: ‘Identity’, digital print, Sarah Ward, New Wave at Contains Art Gallery