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Thirty years of art - Black Swan Arts, Frome

If you’re ever in Frome, check out the Black Swan Arts Centre. It’s a true gem, tucked away in a beautifully restored huddle of buildings that house a lot of the things we love... in one very cool place! 

There are two awesome gallery spaces - The Black Swan Arts Main Gallery and the Black Swan Arts Round Tower - showcasing contemporary, accessible and interesting local art. Art you can fall in love with. Art that will challenge you.

There’s also a gorgeous gift shop ‘SEED’, a handful of small, artisan studios - where you’ll find talented local artists at work - and if that wasn’t enough, everything’s linked together by laid-back cafe ‘Divas’. Divas serves fab lunches, coffee and homemade cake (and also acts as a pop-up gallery space), so you can mooch around the main galleries, browse in the shop and stop for a wine, chat and a bite to eat in the courtyard garden too. That’s exactly what we did yesterday… and what a great way to spend a sunshiney Sunday!  

The thing we really love about Black Swan Arts is their creative approach. It’s 30 years this year since the former derelict inn was turned in to a beacon for the arts - and to celebrate the anniversary, they’ve been doing some very cool stuff. 

In June, the ‘1,000 postcards’ exhibition was a bit like art Russian Roulette! Ever fancied a postcard created by Bryan Adams or Kevin McCloud on your wall? Well this was your chance and no… we haven’t lost our marbles! :)

Basically, this colourful, imaginative exhibition gave everyone a chance to buy a piece of original postcard artwork for £30. Contributors ranged from emerging local artists to a whole host of celebrities and all cards were displayed anonymously in the gallery, so there was the added surprise of not knowing who’s artwork you were buying (although the signatures are on the back). 

We think it was a fantastic idea and the gallery was truly brought to life with the 1,000 pieces of mini art in it!  Some of the postcards are still available to buy, with the goal of raising £30,000 towards restoring the historic Round Tower and keeping the gallery open for another 30 years - as well as promoting original art to new audiences and keeping it affordable. We’ve just bagged these beauties actually… 

They've not arrived yet, so I wonder who made them :)

Anyway, yesterday we got involved in another of Black Swan Arts 30 year celebrations. The ‘Secret Swans Art Trail’ saw 30 swan-themed artworks from 30 artists hidden at 30 venues in and around Frome… so we grabbed our trail map, our smiley puppy Petal and attempted to find and identify all 30!

We won’t tell you how many we ended up finding, but we will say it was brilliant fun and the mix of artwork on display was stunning.

The trail ran for 10 days in all, to coincide with the Frome Festival, and it was another great way to engage artists, art lovers, families, adventurers and the local community - with everyone following the trail to seek out and discover new and exciting art around Frome.

Artists that created pieces for the trail included sculptor Edgar Phillips (showing the beautiful steel and glass wings piece), multi-award-winner Alicia Merrett, Ian Marlow MRBS, who created the popular Bishops Palace Swan ‘Guinevere’, printmaker Bronwen Bradshaw of Dove Studios ‘Amazing Space’, mosaic artist Kate Rattray and sculptor Fiona Campbell, who collaborated with pupils from All Hallows school to produce a group wire piece, as well as 'Resurrection' which could be seen on the riverbank next to Frome Canoe club: 

The event also inspired some of the artists to try something a little different!

Photographic artist Christina White, who normally uses large format camera to take pictures of industrial ruins, used squeezed cling film and bubble wrap for one of the layers on her piece! Jewellers Linda Sandeman and Yasemin Sweet, who share a studio but had never collaborated prior to the art trail, created a beautiful swan brooch together as their submission. 

To raise much-needed funds for the galleries, you could also bid for the artworks - a secret auction, with the chance to own your favourite collectable pieces. The proceeds will be split between the artist and Black Swan Arts.  

And there’s more!

As well as the many fantastic exhibitions held all year round, if you’ve missed either of these anniversary celebrations never fear! ’30 Plinths’ is coming later in the year. It's a show celebrating artists and makers who’ve previously had studio space at Black Swan Arts and as the gallery puts it have then “successfully flown the nest!”  Selected artists will be returning to contribute to an eclectic mix of ceramic, jewellery, painting, pottery and printmaking - a chance to look back on 30 years of nurturing creativity at the Centre - and we can’t wait!

All in all, what a fab place to have on the doorstep... and if it's not on your doorstep, don't forget to plan a visit when you come to Somerset! 


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