VENUE 81: celebrating 45 years of creativity

Last weekend the celebrations officially began as The Dove Studios marked forty five years of art, craft and creativity. There was cake, flowers, sunshine and smiles, and of course art – lots of it! Long term resident at this Somerset based ‘on off arts colony’ Bronwen Bradshaw has been pouring her energies into commemorating this amazing space and the many  artists, writers, poets and musicians who have been part of its history.

Many have been touched by the unique artistic vibe on the farm at Butleigh – whether they lived on site during its commune days, attended one of the many art classes or childrens’ workshops or perhaps were even born at The Dove. Admittedly there have been high points and low points when artistic energies waned and outside factors affected funding particularly during the recession of the 70’s, or when political policies affected those who sought alternative lifestyles during the 80’s but through all this The Dove has survived in different guises and provided a platform for people to respond, escape and question the issues that affected each generation in turn.

Thanks to recent funding from Arts Council England, Bronwen has been able to commission new works and there was much to see during Saturday’s celebration. As with any private view there were many faces to catch up with and chat to and I would like to have spent longer delving into the Book-in-a Drawer exhibition. I did find some quiet time at the Door House where I enjoyed watching Diana Milstein’s enchanting and colour sensitive animation. Michael Fairfax’s sound sculptures never fail in enticing an interactive audience and his ‘fiddle sticks’ were generating many smiles!

Artists Toni Davey and Lucy Willis must have had a wonderful time selecting the winners of the Mini – Print exhibition. Artists were invited to submit small scale images that encompassed  their time at The Dove Studios and the entries were beautifully displayed in the print workshop for all to see. The winners were Mel Petty and Sue Waterhouse, who won a day etching with Bronwen. While Jacy Wall and Pennie Elfick were presented with a pack of Somerset Printmaking paper, kindly donated by R K Burt Ltd, a well known paper merchants in London.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see SAW’s Creative Pathway artist Jennifer Newbury’s interpretation of her time spent working at the studios but her words in the publication ‘an Amazing Space’ identify with her being captivated, like so many, by being surrounded by other artists not only in the present but their echoes from the past. Copies of the book cost £5.00 and can be bought from studio ‘shop’ priced at £5.00.

The Dove is open to visitors during Art Week and I  recommend that you allow plenty of time to fully appreciate the diverse array of skills and history being showcased. You also need space to soak up the ‘sense of place.’ I challenge you not to leave feeling inspired by the creative force of The Dove and am confident that art and craft will be the main crop of this once derelict farm for many years to come.

This forthcoming weekend 26th + 27th September there are a number of workshops that you may attend, it may not be too late to book, and the main SAW event opens to the public on the 3rd October. Full details can be found here.

I’ll shall leave you with a selection of images captured last weekend and a link to the dedicated blog where you will find more photographs and entries by the many artists involved: Amazing Space A Celebration of the Dove Arts and Crafts Centre

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Published on September 24, 2015 // Davina Jelley