After a couple of years away from being a trustee of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust I have accepted an invitation to become a trustee of ACE (Art, Care, Education), a small charity based in Somerton, Somerset. The charity provides art and creative activity which inspires, empowers and enables people to develop and grow. This is for all ages, involving schools and care settings. ACE showcases work by local artists, embracing all media, introducing new ideas and working practices to surprise even the most experienced art enthusiast. They do extraordinary things with virtually no money, relying on some funding from a variety of public purses and from what they manage to sell in their shop and from the exhibitions they hold.
In the first few months of this year ACE has provided over one hundred opportunities for family friendly learning, programmed ninety creative activity sessions outside of the gallery, provided educational talks for one hundred and twenty members of the community, welcomed over eight thousand visitors to the gallery, held forty creative activity sessions in the gallery space including those for 90 school children, showcased over one hundred local artist’s work alongside supporting sixteen emerging artists – all of this with limited staff and resources!
However, like many small charities, ACE has been hit first by the Covid epidemic and then with the cost of living crisis. Footfall is well down and sales have collapsed. The charity has been forced to deplete its small financial reserves and now needs to raise funds in order to be able to continue its work. Accordingly, the trustees have decided to hold a fundraising event, an exhibition to take place at the gallery between 13th and 17th September with all works exhibited kindly donated by ACE’s supporting artists. I will post more about this later. In the meantime do visit their web site at www.acearts.co.uk
An artist whom I have had the privilege to represent and support in the past is Pennie Elfick. Pennie has an exhibition opening on 6 August at Taunton’s Brewhouse, curated by Close Gallery who operate from Hatch Beauchamp nearby. Pennie’s new painting is even more minimalist, if that is possible, with some bold new forms which seem to me to be inspired by her 3D work. The exhibition, titled Talking to Myself, runs until 11 September. www.tauntonbrewhouse.co.uk/events/pennie-elfick/
Also in the West Country is the remarkable exhibition Earth: Digging Deep in British Art 1781-2022 at Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy. This is the fourth in a series of shows set around the four elements, and includes works in a wide range of media. My personal interest in this show is the inclusion of an engraving of a drawing by John Clerk of Eldin done for James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth. The drawing is of the unconformity at Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders, also illustrated in the book Clerk’s geology drawings which I have loaned. It is great to see Clerk’s work exposed in different contexts, as was also the case in The Hunterian Museum’s exhibition last year Old Ways New Road: Travels in Scotland 1720-1832. See https://www.rwa.org.uk/collections/art-exhibitions/products/earth-digging-deep-in-british-art-1781-2022 and https://oldwaysnewroads.co.uk/
Besides John Clerk of Eldin, Old Ways New Roads included works by Paul Sandby, Clerk’s friend, but there is barely an honourable mention for Robert Adam, Clerk’s famous architect brother-in-law. The three friends used to go out drawing together when Sandby spent his time in Scotland between 1747 and 1751. I have been fortunate recently to be able to acquire watercolour drawings by each of these men which, with the exception of Adam, compliment the etchings I have by them. Adam did not translate his Romantic fantasy landscapes into print. The pictures will be the cornerstone of whatever I can arrange to mark the 300th anniversary of Clerk and Adam’s birth in 2028.