Hello, everyone! My name’s Dane and I’m the arts centre’s social media manager and general busybody. You may have seen me running around like a madman trying to keep everyone’s drinks topped up while simultaneously trying to take a few photos for Instagram. I’ve been a friend and volunteer of the arts centre for some years now, but the Lockdown Exhibition was my first full event as an official team member.
One of the things that I want to do as part of our revamped approach to marketing is to work on a monthly update that shares a little look at what’s been happening (and what’s coming up) at Wycombe Arts Centre. And with a successful lockdown art exhibition under our belts, it seems like the perfect place to get started! Come with me as I take you behind the scenes…
Our story begins with the setup. It’s no mean feat to arrange an event like this, and I’m just glad that my job was to do some heavy lifting and to promote the thing online. Ruth and Tabitha did a great job of corralling the dozens of artists into providing images and bios and installing their artworks, especially as the artists had to come in at staggered times to prevent overcrowding and maintain social distancing.
Dan Wilson of Decreate, our resident artist, had a lot of the contacts we needed and was also responsible for the visual elements, from our posters to our outdoor signposting. He also brought in Carl Tilly of Tilly Photography to work on an official event video, which you can view above. Dr. Caroline Eliot was also on the organisation team and helped out with a bit of everything, from running the door to setting up our one-way system and designing our stunning donations box.
Honestly, so much hard work went into this exhibition that we’d be here all day if we thanked everyone, so I messaged a few people from the organisation team to ask them to share their highlights:
- Caroline Eliot: It was such an inspiring event! A vibrant celebration of our eclectic artistic local community. I’m very pleased that something this positive resulted from lockdown.
- Susan “Soobie” Whitfield: “A highlight of the exhibition for me was meeting people who’d never visited the Arts Centre before. I particularly enjoyed finding shared interests with people visiting the Signdance Collective TIME project exhibit and discussing how the collaboration process worked. This sparked off some fascinating conversations with other artists and visitors. Serving bottled drinks at the weekend, wearing masks and doing lots of cleaning to keep everyone safe are also memories of an exhibition no one will forget!”
- Isolte Avila: “The lockdown exhibit was a nice, vital event and exhibition of community art which brought people together in a safe way. We’re pleased that Signdance Collective was able to make a contribution through sharing The Time Project. It gave us an opportunity to share our work with the local community and we had comments like ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before’ and people watching the work through several times! We had artists visit virtually from the USA (New York and Miami), Wales, Austria, Cuba and England. Thank you Wycombe Arts Centre and Arts Council England for your support during this time of uncertainty.”
- Ruth Gunstone: “The exhibition has been a monumental team effort and a fantastic way of emerging from lockdown. The Arts Centre has undergone a thorough cleaning, decorating and maintenance programme over the past three months, so it’s been wonderful to invite people back to enjoy such a rich and inspiring range of creative work. We’re also pleased to have opened up our gardens, such a lovely green space in an otherwise built-up area. Our garden has been transformed in partnership with the charity Social Link, with raised flower and vegetable beds, a bug hotel and newly-trimmed shrubs. It’s been a great space to relax and unwind in with a cool drink. With the return of old friends and new visitors, we hope to continue to be a place where people feel comfortable and safe at this difficult time and where they can enjoy the increasing variety of events and activities on offer.”
For me, I’m a writer, so I was a big fan of the listening corner. We had a computer out with dual headphones and complimentary headphone covers, but in case you didn’t get a chance to stop by then you can listen to the contributions above. There are some cracking writers taking part, from Yasmin Harris’ heartfelt pieces on trauma to Mervyn Cooke’s contributions that were grounded in Chinese and Irish literature and an excerpt of a novel called Meat by some guy called Dane.
But I was also blown away by the artwork, with a few of my favourites including Stevyn Colgan’s sculptures, Ed Silvester’s photography and Teakster’s stunning Islamic-inspired art. Then there was L127, who does some incredible street art that wasn’t on sale because it’s destined to be displayed for free in local trails and wooded areas, and Victoria from Dread Falls Theatre who was hosting live puppet-making demonstrations. I also bought a couple of hand-made masks from Juliette of The Tired Dressmaker.
The Saturdays were a lot of fun as we had live music in the garden, including from our in-house jazz band, and we were also visited by the Mayor of High Wycombe and Patrick Hogan, the new Cabinet Member for Culture at Buckinghamshire Council, who visited for the first time and was very impressed with what he saw.
But most of all, I was blown away by how supportive the wider community was. We do our part by putting on events and providing the infrastructure, but it’s the artists who made the exhibition and it’s the visitors who made it so memorable. Coming off the back of what’s been a tough six months for everybody, we’re delighted to have been able to showcase such talent and to provide a safe space for people to come together again in celebration of the arts in all of their forms. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Coming up in September
- Gideon Rainey will be lighting the arts centre up in red to support the events industry
- The Rock Project is relaunching on Thursday 10th September offering music tuition and live performance for kids and adults
- Our friends at Social Link are continuing to work on the gardens
- Resident potter Connie is hosting small group sessions and workshops
- We’re in talks to host an event coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the death of an icon (keep your eyes peeled)
- We’re also in talks to relaunch many of the regular events that were forced to postpone due to COVID-19
- Further maintenance, stock-checks, etc.
We’re always looking for people who are interested in volunteering or helping out, whether you’re interested in hosting events or whether you’re just looking to get more involved in the local artistic community. We also want to hear your feedback about our lockdown exhibition, so please do get in touch if you have anything to share! In the meantime, you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for further updates. We look forward to seeing you again soon!