Letter by Letter by Letter by Letter…
Beeston has a great community, and many of its community are greatly creative. This was firmly established in the first weekend of June when eleven local artists opened up their studios and invited us all in to see for ourselves. The annual ABC Art Trail involves artists from Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell, which is how it got its name funnily, and as the name suggests it doesn’t just take place in Beeston.
I followed the trail from back to front this year in Attenborough at Rita Miller’s stunning studio on Long Lane. Her compact converted garage was so extensively filled with serene landscapes and bold still life paintings my eyes took a while to take it all in. “Why did you start at the last venue?” I hear you exclaim. Well the point is, that it doesn’t really matter where you begin or where you end, the standard and variety of work on display will impress you wherever you go.
In fact, in total there was an artist for every letter of the alphabet this year, so you were rewarded with more stunning pieces than anticipated to pore over at some venues. And of course if you do like to wander in a less haphazard way, the organisers had put together a back pocket map that you can refer to on your journey round with each location clearly numbered.
And let’s talk about the variety! There were oil paintings, photographs, glass and silver jewellery, textile art, embroidered felted wool, ceramics, knitwear, stained glass, watercolours and sculptures as well as an opportunity to chat to Bob Child who offers a traditional bespoke framing service. It was truly an inspirational weekend and I even managed to pick up a few purchases along the way. It is worth pointing out though that not all the venues are artist’s studios.
You could enjoy examples of Susan Harley’s landscapes hanging from the red, yellow and blue frames of the gym equipment at The Lanes Primary School, alongside glittering glass and gentle watercolours. In contrast to all that kaleidoscope of colour, Sara Gaynor’s ethereal photography sat rather well in its temporary home at a Beeston Dental Practice. It’s usual to pick a day and a selection of artists to visit as there are so many, but this year a new challenge was set.
Three Beestonians (me, Matt and our intrepid photographer Christopher) set off early on bicycles to visit each venue and collect a unique piece of artwork in the form of a letter. As if organising and publicising this impressive show of local people’s work wasn’t enough, each collective of artists at each venue had handmade a letter in a combination of their own distinctive styles. It is impossible to visit all of the venues in one day and do them justice, to make sure that you have made the most of your visit you really do need to stay a while and ponder, and not just the artwork either.
A number of our artists’ gardens were just as attractive as their artwork and we couldn’t resist a wander around some of the winding paths and buzzing flowerbeds. It struck me at one point, how community spirited these people are for opening up their studios, and in some cases their homes, to the general public to wander freely. They are sharing their sanctuaries and their personal collections with us as well as the pieces they created and put on display. The twiglets served in a hand thrown piece of pottery made by founder member Alan Birchall didn’t go unappreciated, and the plentiful refreshments welcome too after a few hours of cycling.
Another wonderful thing about the ABC Art Trail is how welcoming the artists are. Their joy at receiving visitors was unrestrained and genuine and this made us want to linger a little longer at each venue. I met with one of the artists and organisers Karen Attwood before the event and as we discussed the work she would be exhibiting it was obvious how much of herself she was pouring into her pieces. Not only is her textile work detailed and time consuming, each piece has a personal resonance which must make it hard to let them go at times, but then sharing is what this event is all about. The artists are more than happy to talk about their inspirations and processes, it’s a celebration of creativity! It is also evident they have an appreciation of each other’s work, and although much of their work is for sale there is no pressure to buy.
If you do happen to be seduced by a brightly coloured piece of glass or an exciting sliver of silver then be rest assured that you are getting good value for money and you are helping a living artist in your community to thrive, and that’s got to be a good thing right? The experts say that art appreciation promotes quality of life and makes you feel good. According to Professor Semir Zeki, neurobiologist at the University College of London, when you stare at great artworks, the part of your brain that is stimulated is the same as when you fall in love.
We definitely fell in love, over and over with the amazing talent and with this home-grown event that makes art accessible for all. And have you guessed what those eleven letters spelled out? ABC Art Trail of course!