Friday 9 December 2011

A selection of work on display at The Castle Pub, Old Town, Swindon

As the title says, an array of my work is on display up at The Castle for the next few months. Again, its something we complain about in Swindon - the lack of affordable (or for that matter, ANY) gallery space. However, local business people help to fill the cultural chasm: The Beehive and The Castle have work by local artists on display, Belgravia Lettings latterly used to hold regular exhibitions - and I believe two of the new cafes on Victoria Hill also encourage local artists to display their work. The results advantage all parties: the owners get free decoration - and increased footfall as a result of friends, family and admirers coming to see the work. The artist gets public exposure. Its a win win.

What a shame that the council doesn't see the need to provide this space. Despite its often touted appreciation of the arts, we never got the gallery which was originally promised as part of the (now moribund) 'Swindon Regeneration'. We've also lost one of the few public galleries since the Art Centre was combined with the Old Town Library. That means no available wall space for hanging/displaying work and it also means the loss of one of the few affordable studios.

Its a little known fact that Swindon also holds one of the largest and most important collections of modern art outside of London. Unfortunately, there's a good reason that this fact remains hidden: the town museum is simply way too small to display more than a few % of the collection. Add to this, the museum is miles from the train station and opens infrequently - the rather arbitrary Wednesday to Saturday, 10.00am to 5.00pm.

Its a shame that the council seems fit to splurge literally hundreds of thousands of pounds on failed projects like Wi-Fi, or big one-off ego fests like the Radio One Big Weekend, but fails to understand that a well designed art museum could be a cultural draw AND net long-term money earner for the borough.

In the meantime, local artists have to continually struggle against the notion that Swindon is irredeemably culture-less. Its a struggle against a failed brand in many respects - and the expectations that any member of the public might have when you mention Swindon and art in the same breath.