Image courtesy to Momentum Commission: Simon Lee Dicker

About this year's Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2015

‘Momentum’ is the overall theme for SAW’s artistic programme in 2015-16. Somerset is often referred to as the county you drive through to get somewhere else and is fairly removed from arts centres and academic strongholds. But there is a vibrant art scene driven by the local artist communities. To support the momentum of growth of these communities, we have created a 2 year programme to provide opportunities for artists to make new works through commissions, bursaries, events and projects. The programme also encourages artist-led research on cultural meanings, taking as a starting point what social, physical and economic mobility and movement looks like in Somerset.

Introducing a series of topics and questions to guide the artistic journey of discovery by artists and audiences, we set Momentum as the focus of Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2015, where the artistic outcome can be shared with the visitors. Many venues embraced the theme ‘Momentum’ in their shows and events; and some artists present a momentum of change in their work, inspirations and the progression of their artistic practice. We thank our artist members and organisations, partners and supporters for their tremendous effort in making the Festival possible.

Past, Present and Future (venue 62) shows a selection of artists’ work and films commissioned by SAW Projects over the last ten years and Time and Place at Royal United Hospital (venue 61) showcases work by our current members.

In addition, a programme of new commissions and partnership projects are also embedded in the Festival. Through an open call process artists Rebecca Moss, Alice Maddicott and Simon Lee Dicker were selected to create site specific new work, in any media, taking a different approach to the theme of ‘Momentum’, setting the work within different environments and communities of Somerset. See Momentum Commissions at (venue 34, 63, 96).

Working in partnership with Craftspace and The National Trust, Gather-ing showcases contemporary craft: makers, skills, materials and thinking in the context of ‘Momentum’. Artists Stewart Easton, Jacky Oliver, Helen Snell, Gillian Widden have been commissioned to create new work in a Tythe Barn at Stoke-sub-Hamdon Priory (venue 35). The resulting project, Gather-ing seeks to inspire and challenge audiences, and raise the quality of craft made and seen in Somerset. We aimby engaging craft practitioners with a track record of excellence and ability, to make creative, imaginative and innovative responses to the site and brief.

We are also working with sponsor Cavaliero Finn (venue 15), and artists from Flock Together (venue 12), Discovery Room and Dove Studios (venue 81) to create professional development opportunities for emerging/graduate artists. Beckie Upton, Laura Aish, Sandra James and Jenny Newbury have received Creative Pathways bursaries to enhance their skills and experience in the arts.

In presenting this Festival, we are delighted to have the opportunity to play a role in supporting some of the exciting projects and shows around the county developed by our members. With their determination and hard work, many have gained public funding support, including a group show Momentum at Musgrove Hospital (venue 8), Magic of Trees at Contains Art (venue 110), Amazing Space at Dove Studios (venue 81), Sense of Place at Brean Down Fort (venue 95), Sensing the Landscape at National Garden Scheme’s gardens (Venue 9, 30, 91, 94 and 108), Step in Stone in Mendip (venue 60) and shiftWorks in Yeovil (venue 39).

‘Placing art in the heart of our communities’ is at the core of our work. The festival also showcases some of our projects in local communities and schools, including Inspired Showcase (Venue 7), Craftivists Garden (venue 5), Routes to the River Tone (venue 6) and Water–Meadow–Wood (venue 42). In Langport we have invited Fotonow to stage photographic work by Gideon Mendel (venue 24) and present StoryLight Yurt (see Events section).

In the Festival guide, you will find much more and many events for families and young people too. We hope you will enjoy this year’s Festival, celebrating the contemporary arts and artists, and sustaining the creative community which is a vital part of the social and cultural landscape of Somerset and beyond.