Digswell Arts Trust: Helping emerging artists

PUBLISHED: 15:22 30 September 2019

Low and lambent i by current fellow Sally Tyrie

Low and lambent i by current fellow Sally Tyrie

Sally Tyrie

The charity that helps emerging artists in Hertfordshire and the surrounding area to flourish for more than 60 years

The first years of attempting to make a living from their art are challenging for emerging artists. Regardless of whether they come from full-time employment or directly from arts education, they often need to develop a wider set of skills outside of their art. But in addition, their art must also continue to develop.

Digswell Arts Trust is there to help. It provides the space to experiment and innovate within a creative community of other new artists, at a similar stage in their artistic career. Critical to this period is a studio. Low-cost studios are provided to around 30 artists or 'fellows' at The Forge in Digswell near Welwyn GC and Fenners Studio in Letchworth which can be rented for up to five years.

Digswell Arts Trust has a strong heritage - founded over 60 years ago by the educationalist Henry Morris, who believed passionately in art for all. Internationally famous alumni include the potter Tom Coper and weaver Peter Collingwood. The original vision of art for all continues and many trust artists are active either as artists or teachers and some run inexpensive classes, including print and weaving. The trust provides opportunities for art experiences in cooperation with community volunteer organisations and works closely with local community groups and schools. It sponsors art competitions and supports both local and national exhibitions by its fellows. Highlights of the year are the open studios events at The Forge and Fenners, when the fellows open their studio doors to visitors.

Celebrated weaver Peter Collingwood, a Digswell Arts Trust alumni (photo: Digswell Arts Trust)Celebrated weaver Peter Collingwood, a Digswell Arts Trust alumni (photo: Digswell Arts Trust)

The studios act as incubators, offering the safe space needed to nurture new ideas. Interacting with other artists also reaps untold benefits as current fellow, mixed media artist Sally Tyrie (whose work, Low and lambent i, is pictured above) says, 'The community that exists at the studios has been invaluable. Formal and more informal artist criticism can help you reflect and question what you are doing. Being an artist can be quite isolating, so being around other artists can strengthen and reinforce what you do.'

Fellows come from a wide range of creative disciplines, all ages and backgrounds and different media from fine art to jewellery, ceramics to fashion. Fellows must demonstrate high standards of originality and creative imagination in their chosen field and are encouraged to exhibit and enter competitions nationally and internationally. Current artists have exhibited at the Royal Academy and have won or been shortlisted for various awards, including the Contemporary Arts Trust Prize.

The trust is at an exciting time of progression says chairman Judy Glasman. 'As well as raising our profile we are currently looking for extra studio space so we can extend the trust's expertise and support to more emerging talented artists in the Hertfordshire area.'

This article is by North Herts Centre for Voluntary Services. There are seven CVS in the county offering hundreds of volunteering opportunities. Visit hertscvs.org.uk for details.

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