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Move towards art gallery for Pevensey Bay

Bay Life understands that the footprint for an art gallery is about to be established in Pevensey Bay, pointing the way to a possibility that we may one day see a permanent art gallery established here.

This is something that has been mooted by the artistic community in the Bay for a number of years.

The media release by the group that is founding this footprint, is expected in the next few days.

We understand that the foundation of the new art gallery footprint will be as early as March, without a specified day for the opening yet.

We also understand that there is to be a ‘Friends of Peveney Bay Art Gallery’ group established in the process, which will link across a number of communities, to further the goal of a permanent art gallery here.

Such a move may well be welcomed in the community and be seen as being of value both to residents and visitors.

The prospect of an art gallery here that would link local artists, workshops, clubs, meetings and exhibitions and perhaps workspace eventually, may well enhance the sense of Pevensey Bay as a small but established centre for artistic endeavours by the seaside.

What the foundation of the Makery has done at the Enterprise Centre in Eastbourne is focus attention on the quality output of artists, ceramicists and photographers. Some of the people involved in the Makery, also live and work in the Bay.

The Makery aims to provide “an innovative forum for local artists, designers and makers to showcase and demonstrate their works”.

Similar ventures have been established for many years in places like Hastings, Lewes and Brighton.

Pevensey Bay is a much smaller community, but nonetheless, the notion of an artistic community by the seaside resonates.

Art at the seaside seems to resonate, presumably because of the nature of the light at seaside locations and the notion of the locations as ‘an escape’ in some way.

A prime example is the artistic community based at Tenby, Pembrokeshire, which began specifically because of the nature of the light in the location and the fact that Tenby is away from the major conurbations in Wales and by the seaside.

The Visit Pembrokeshire website says, “artists and craftspeople gravitate to this part of South-west Wales, attracted by the seascapes, quality of light and that special Celtic magic that comes with the territory”.

The most famous example in the country is the thriving artist community at St.Ives, which explains the foundation of Tate St.Ives.

The town became a magnet for artists following the extension to west Cornwall of the Great Western Railway in 1877. Painter James McNeill Whistler and his pupils, Walter Sickert and Mortimer Mempes, arrived in 1884, and spent the winter in the town.

In 1920 Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada set up a pottery in St Ives, creating a further international art connection for the town.

In 1928 Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood visited St Ives where they were impressed by the work of local artist Alfred Wallis. This started another strand in the development of the Cornish fishing port as an artists’ colony.

A 2010 ninety-minute BBC 4 film, “The Art of Cornwall,” presented by James Fox explored in some detail the lives and works of many of the key figures and the contributions they made in establishing St Ives as a major centre of British art from the 1920s onwards.

Of course Pevensey Bay shares none of these characteristics, this is a tiny community, we do have our own magic and legends and links with famous artists, but these links are mostly restricted to visits.

Having said, famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, Val Cameron Prinsep, lived here, and the road in Pevensey Bay is named in his honour.

He was a close friend of John Everett Millais, and of Burne-Jones. With other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he taught at the Working Men’s College during the mid-19th century. The Working Men’s College was at the forefront of progressive liberal education in the nineteenth century.

Michael Stringer also lived here. He was a film production designer, art director, painter and illustrator.

His work as art director on Fiddler on the Roof (1971), involving much shooting in Yugoslavia, earned him an Academy Award nomination shared with the Hollywood production designer Robert Boyle and set decorator Peter Lamont.

We also have a road named after Rossetti and there are a number of small links with the Rossetti family here.

We must remember to forgive the council at the time failing to open an art history book to see that they had spelt the name in the right way.

These are very small markers in relation to our links with the history of famous artist figures in the country, nonetheless noteworthy at the local level to a certain extent.

The prospect of Pevensey Bay emerging in some small way as part of this countrywide artistic legacy, with some kind of gallery footprint, might prove to be an exciting development, if only for local residents.

That footprint could of course include reference to work by both Val Prinsep and Michael Stringer.

Talking to Bay Life yesterday about the plan (February 13), an artist figure in the community said with great caution, but noting the value of seaside locations. “Well St. Ives does have their artistic community”

More news and comment about ‘the footprint for an art gallery in Pevensey Bay’ will be published this weekend, with the forthcoming media release by the group.