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Somerset Art Weeks - Celebrating visual arts in Somerset

Updated: May 15, 2018

It’s here! The time of year when we see these yellow signs pop up all over Somerset and we get a little bit excited ;). 

Yep… Somerset Art Weeks is ON and we can’t wait to uncover some gems, as over 350 artists take part in this year’s showcase of artistic talent in Somerset.  

If you’re new to it all, or you’re wondering what Somerset Art Weeks is and what the yellow signs are all about, it’s basically a unique celebration of visual arts in our creative county. It happens every year (this year it runs from 23rd September to 8th October) and there are 120 venues across the Mendips, South Somerset, Taunton Deane, Sedgemoor and West Somerset, where you can go and experience some diverse and inspiring art, largely for free.* Woo hoo!

There’s something for all tastes too, with workshops, demos and ‘have-a-go’ activities in some venues. Whether you’re looking for a family friendly event for your kids, or to follow a sculpture trail around a historic Somerset garden, or to pop by a café and browse local collections with a cup of coffee in hand, or to sit in the quiet and admire a stunning installation in a gallery space, there's lots to love!  

Last night, we kicked off our Somerset Art Weeks adventure with a visit to ACEarts in Somerton. We love this cool little gallery and we wanted to see the launch of their postcard project ‘Your Art Here’ which invited artists, designers and creatives to donate a postcard work to raise money for community outreach projects.  

The postcards are on show on the ground floor in the shop and it was great to see so many eclectic pieces of work all displayed together. We flipping love postcards, so we couldn’t keep away! ;) 

Anyway, grab yourself a Somerset Art Weeks guide or check out the website here to find out what’s on and what floats your particular boat! Just scroll to the bottom of the linked page and click on Arts Festival Guide 2017 to download your free guide. We've studied ours (and I do mean studied ;)) and here’s a quick preview of our ‘six of the best’ picks that’ve really caught our eye:

1. A Load Of Old Scrap (Venue 49, The Old Chapel Causeway, Woolavington. TA7 8DN)

Well, no surprises for guessing that the title made us smile! The metalwork and sculpture is unique and as Nick at A Load Of Old Scrap says,

“We live in a throw away world and that’s where I come in. I transform old tools, vehicle parts, bicycles etc in to one-off sculptures of varying sizes”

– and by the looks of it, there’s some big ‘uns on show (one of a six-ft woman to be exact). We can’t wait to pop along and check it out.

Update: Well, we popped along & we checked it out! Nick is a lovely guy and happily chats about what he does and how long it takes! The six-ft woman (shown below), took 200 hours to create. Anyway, here's a couple of pics from our visit so you can see the detail in Nick's unique sculptures:   

2. Kit Sadgrove, Street Photography  - Venue 6, The Archangel, 1 King Street, Frome, BA11 1BH

This caught our hearts more than our eyes I think. Kit has taken his portraits on the streets of Somerset and as the Somerset Art Weeks Guide explains, they show

“people in all their moods – from joy to misery, from confusion to excitement’.

It’ll probably be emotional, but at least we can walk round with a pint in our hands, as his photographs are housed in The Archangel in Frome ;). There’s also a live street photography session on Sunday October 1st.

3. Wagon House Gallery - Venue 45, Hill Farm, 7 Blacksmiths Lane, Shapwick, TA7 9LZ

The guys at Wagon House Gallery had us at “A Feast of Food and Art” – YES! As well as two floors of contemporary and varied artworks, there's homemade lunches, cakes and all profits go to Help the Child – a local charity providing specialist equipment for disabled children in Somerset. We're also loving the detail of this piece there by Karen Edwards

It’s also close to venue 47 in Bawdrip, so we can pop in and see one of our favourites, Jackie Curtis. We love her work and her print  ‘wrens’ might just be in our bathroom!! ;)

Update: It was lovely visiting Jackie at her home studio. There was a very warm welcome for us and the doggies, as well as cups of coffee and a look at her beautiful work. Here's a couple of pics:

4. Cavaliero Finn at Monks Yard - Venue 88, Horton Manor, Horton Cross, Ilminster, TA19 9PY

‘The Essence of Home’ exhibition has been created in Horton Manor - a Grade II listed Georgian manor house that’s been empty for over a decade. The house is in the process of being restored, so it’ll be really exciting to see how the contemporary art, exploring the true nature of ‘home’, brings the space to life. Check out Cavaliero Finn here.

And here's a new painting by West Country artist Angela Charles, to whet the appetite. 

Update - This exhibition finished on 1st October. Here's some photos we took when we visited. It was absolutely stunning having 'The essence of home' in Horton Manor and we discovered some artists we've fallen in love with. Maybe one day their work will be a part of our home too!

5. Two Artists and a Bookshop - Venue 108, Bailey Hill Bookshop, Fore Street, Castle Cary, BA7 7BG

We love books, we’re not far from Castle Cary, we’ve never seen the art of the two siblings Lotte and Gus Scott who are showcasing their work here, so this is our wildcard! :) We can’t wait to find out how Bailey Hill bookshop has influenced them and we love the notion that

“Behind every great artist is a great bookshop”. 

Update: Bailey Hill Bookshop is an absolute gem - a beautiful building packed full of diverse, cool and inspiring books. We could spend hours inside! The exhibition is definitely worth checking out . We love the sense of place in Lotte's work and the vibrant storytelling in Gus's prints.   

6. Rockaway Park  (Venue 1, Rockaway, East Court Road, Temple Cloud, BS39 5BU)

We’ve not been to Rockaway Park yet but it sounds a bit crackers – and we love a bit crackers! ;). It’s set in a disused quarry on the top of Cloud Hill and there’s loads going on – with works from resident artist Rowdy and lots more artists too. There’s also on-site blacksmiths, woodworkers and a resident tattooist. Love this place already and the picture below, taken by Michael Baxter, just makes us desperate to drop by! 

Anyway, today and tomorrow (23rd/24th September), they’re getting the party started with a ‘weekend spectacular’ showcasing live music, live art and Vegan food.

Crikey, it was tough to pick only six of the best. We’ve got at least 60 on our list that we’d love to go to if we had the next 16 days completely free! We’re also definitely going to see Fiona Campbell & Angela Morley’s 'Ephemeral and Eternal' in the flesh, after seeing a few sneak previews on Instagram.

It’s at Black Swan Arts Round Tower Gallery - another very Somerset cool space in Frome. Their work is on display at Clayhill Arts (Venue 55) too. 

We’re also giving a shout out to Venue 104, Lytes Cary, this weekend. There’s a showcase of contemporary craft going on today and tomorrow and we can’t wait to see Lucy Large’sinstallation. A piece we’ll be writing about Lucy will be on the blog in the coming weeks, so we're excited to see what she's created.

Update. Here's a couple of pics from when we visited. Her installation definitely brought the old rafters to life:

The other thing to say is that this year is a 'festival' year. Somerset Art Weeks alternates every year between an ‘open studios’ year (where you can go and visit artists in their Somerset studios) and a festival year that has a theme. This year’s theme is ‘Prospect’, to conjur up ideas of space and potential. The art made in response is showcased in a whole host of different places.

The prospects for us all over the next 16 days are looking inspiring, challenging, exciting and fun. Follow those yellow signs and get stuck in! ;)   

Ooh and tag us #somersetcool on Twitter or Instagram to any pictures you’ve taken of venue visits you’ve loved. We’re going to share some on our social feeds over the next couple of weeks and we’d love to hear your experiences.  We’d particularly love to know about 'A Special Place' in venue 72  at The Alan Rogers Centre in Wellington School. It sounds fab and although we can't get there ourselves, between us all I reckon we’ll get around the whole 120 venues!

Happy art weeks-ing!! ;)

*The majority of venues are free to visit. A few venues are ‘entry by donation’ and some exhibits in established gardens have a fee to enter the gardens, but this is made really clear in the Somerset Art Weeks guide.

Imagery: We've used some Instagram imagery in this post, so where we haven't specifically mentioned this in our blog, credit goes to the following: Collage 1 features images from Angela Morley (her images also make up collage 2), Rockaway Park and Cavalerio Finn. In our 'six of the best' section, all images were taken by the venues mentioned or by the artists exhibiting there - excluding our 'update' pics, which were snapped by us when we visited! 


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