Updated: Mar 16, 2019
In 2014 I took what many told me was a risk and opened an art gallery on Lucius Street. I wanted to provide a space that supported our local creatives and one that attracted artists from elsewhere. I believed that Torbay had a lot to offer and wanted others to feel the same way too. As we approach the end 2018 and head into our fifth year, I think that we can safely say ‘we are getting there.’ To some this might seem like slow progress, but for those who know Torbay will know what an achievement it is to be able to say, ‘yes, we are getting there.’
Most of you will know the basics of our ethos; to support local art, local artists and our local community. Many of you will hopefully know that this extends to working with hundreds of South Devon artists annually as well as helping to attract national and international talent to Torbay. A good number of you who work closely with us or regularly patronise the gallery will also have a good idea of how hard we work to achieve these goals. But we’re guessing one thing you might not know, is that many of the hours we work are in fact voluntary.
Now we’re not saying this to be particularly inspiring and we’re not angling for a day off! We just want to put it out there that we’re not in this for money or gain; we’re neither looking nor expecting to get rich doing what we do. We do what we do because we think it matters, because we hope what we provide is valued and ultimately because we love doing it.
2018 has without doubt been our biggest year yet. We welcomed around 300 artists in a yearlong calendar of solo group and open shows held both at the gallery and at external venues. Our two major opens were thanks largely to the sponsorship from Edinburgh House Estates and Fleet Walk Management allowing us the use of a large pop-up space in the centre of Torquay. Our Winter Open is, of course, still running. We will be here right up to 5pm on 24th December so if you are a last-minute shopper like me or simply deserve a treat for yourself, make sure you pop in and see us.
This year also saw us become an Associate Partner of the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark, establishing and showcasing for the first time work by Geopark Ambassador Artists. This exciting new excursion saw us working with some incredibly talented Torbay and South Devon folk, who live, sleep and breath our significant coastal, geological and cultural heritage, particularly through their art. With two exhibition features on them this year which were exceptionally well received, we’re looking forward to more work with them in 2019.
We also sponsored Torquay Boys’ Grammar Schools first art show, another highly successful event for Torbay which further demonstrated the huge appetite for a visual art offer locally.
Alongside our exhibitions we ran our regular monthly Performance Poetry and Acoustic Nights curated and hosted for us by Becky Nuttall, Shelley Szender, Robert Garnham and Robert Spence plus of course we introduced our Cocktails & Conversations with Accounting4Everything and the bar team from Panache, hosting a series of talks on art, heritage, sport, film, tourism and words of wisdom about life in general, and it is with great thanks that we recognise our local speakers who helped to make these a success: Frank Sobey, Jim Parker, Kate Farmery, Carolyn Custerson, Gordon Oliver, Kevin Foster, Kevin Dixon and Barry Young.
In all we hosted or were involved in 70 events and at times it really did feel that there wasn’t even a moment to stop and catch a breath.
But what was perhaps most significant for us in 2018 was the final successful purchase of our home gallery, number 7 Lucius Street. It took a full 10 months (though it felt like nearly as many years) and it gives us an exciting new level of freedom to push forwards new and exciting projects. Expect new spaces, new layouts and a bit of new life down here in 2019!
Speaking of which, we’re already getting excited about what the year ahead has to offer with confirmations of the 2019 line up almost completely finalised! It’s a jam-packed year, with faces old and new joining for a mix of solo, group and open shows. There will also be involvement with the Geopark Festival and International Agatha Christie Festival plus a few other ventures that are bubbling away under the surface.
So, as we said at the start, we think we are getting there. And we’re getting there because of the endeavours of those of many others too. Torbay has felt full of energy this year for the first time in a while with a buzz of quality, locally sourced, activity to be proud of. Whether it was Cockington Court’s second year push at their inspiring Sculpture Trail, Torre Abbey’s audience growing Torbay Tattoo Tales or the arrival at Torquay Museum of TEDxTorquay, this year has really felt like we’ve lived up to the name of the English Riviera.
TEDxTorquay Production Team and Speakers. Photo Credit: Will Reddaway | WR Photography
Before we go, we do want to mention one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced this year. Since July, we’ve been suffering with water ingress into our basement. Caught early on, we were able to clear the lower levels before any damage was caused, but the trickle has since become a river and ultimately resulted in us closing the main space in December whilst we had the opportunity to be at our Pop-up on Fleet Walk. The end of the year is now fast approaching with little progress being made and at the moment it does stand to hinder our reopening in January. Contingency plans are in place that guarantee we’ll be back with you for the start of February, but we do hope that you’ll bear with us as we work through this stressful maintenance period!
And with that, all that’s left for us to say is thank you once again for another year sticking with us, attending our events, reading our updates, purchasing from our local artists, or however it is you’ve supported us in 2018. Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas from the whole of the Artizan team.