AS THE YEAR DRAWS TO A CLOSE, GALLERY DIRECTOR JAMES GREEN TAKES A LOOK BACK AT 2023, AND A LOOK FORWARD T0 2024
West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are such special places to us all. In 2023 we celebrated some of the more hidden aspects of life here and looked deeply at how we can use our resources and the knowledge of our teams to support communities in ways that few galleries manage.
In the spring we presented the exhibition We Are Floating In Space, which took a deep dive into the work of more than 40 artists practicing in our region; a show that reflected on our coastal location as a starting point, but took visitors on all sorts of unexpected journeys.
Our current exhibition, Storm Warning, delivered in partnership with Focal Point Gallery, Southend-On-Sea, is also inspired by our coastal situation, but this time to consider how the climate emergency is impacting on our coastal communities. Artists have worked with ecologists, activists, citizen scientists, marine biologists, and those working in the fishing industry. The resulting works range from the playful to immersive to projects, which foreground the role artists can play as activists and strategists.
The exhibition also formed part of the gallery’s wider work to reduce our impact on the environment and recognise and promote discussion and action on the issue. In March, we closed the gallery for a day, and hosted a whole-team Green Day event, with discussions covering all aspects of our operations, from installing exhibitions, to Front-of-House, the shops and cafés, to how we do things behind the scenes. We were joined by partners including David Edmonds from Mount’s Bay Marine Group, Rachael Reid, Cornwall Council Waste and Recycling Community Support Officer, and Lynne Dyer from Growing Links. We also screened a film from Cornwall Climate Care, now presented publicly as part of Storm Warning.
WORKING WITH SCHOOLS
Our own desire to make change for our communities was also evident in our summer exhibition I Chose This, a show which celebrated a two-year intensive programme we delivered across nine schools in West Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly. The project aimed to provide teachers with the confidence and skills to deliver rich and inspiring art curricula in primary schools. At the heart of the project was an opportunity for children in each school to select original artworks from the internationally significant Arts Council Collection, and the Cornwall Schools Art Collection, for an exhibition in each of their schools. I Chose This brought all 51 works together for a final celebratory exhibition across our galleries, and visitors delighted in the bold choices the children had made. We have ambitious plans to build on this work in schools over the coming years, so keep an eye out for more announcements.
The warm days of early summer seem a long time ago, but we hosted many wonderful events in our spaces at The Exchange and in our spectacular Garden Cafe at Newlyn Art Gallery, with its views across Mount’s Bay. A highlight was our wonderful mid-summer garden party with great food and dancing on Newlyn Green. We also celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Passmore Edwards, our founding benefactor, and all these years later, still the inspiration for much of our work, and that of other cultural and educational institutions across Cornwall and further afield.
I look forward to welcoming you to similar celebrations in 2024, but there’s plenty on before then to whet your appetite, including more events, from supper clubs and vintage fairs, to evenings of music and art. From January we will be delivering a richer and more comprehensive events programme than ever before, so please keep an eye on our website, and social media pages – or better still, join our mailing list – and visit us soon in the New Year.
But, for now, from me and all of the staff, volunteers, and trustees at the gallery, have a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
Director, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange