Art in the Park 2006
Artist of the Week 1
Mark Bennett, whose large painting of elephants captured the imagination of our visitors
Artist of the Week 2
Dominique Downs, here receiving her winning certificate from Andy Lloyd
Artist of the Week 3
Kelly Hawes' paintings were a big hit with visitors to week 3 of the Cheltenham exhibition
Artist of the Week 4
Mike Kingston's ever-popular work topped the bill during Week 4
World Cup Fever hits Exhibition...literally
It seems that every year the exhibition becomes that bit more difficult to stage. Traditionally, we have kept the exhibition open until 8.30pm each day, so that tourists staying in the town have an opportunity to visit after day trips out and about.
But this may need to be reviewed in the light of the anti-social behaviour of a group of youths assembling in the Imperial Gardens in the summer evenings to drink, take drugs and clown about. The peaceful ambiance of this beautiful park has been disrupted this year. Evidence for this is plain for all to see; our steward's enclosure has been struck by vandals (Gloucestershire Echo 3rd July 2006, p3). This despite CCTV and a regular police presence.
Such mindless loutishness should not prevent us from continuing to put on the exhibition. Yet, it is the latest in a string of events over the last few years which have been forced change on the exhibition. For instance, the artists are no longer able to store their paintings in the Town Hall's basement, which means they must bring them backwards and forwards each night. Anyone who has not tried to carry bags full of heavy pictures several hundred yards could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about. But given the nature of the crowd hanging around in the park in the evenings at the moment, such a trip is increasingly hazardous, especially for the more elderly of our artistic community.
Other factors are the spiralling costs of holding the exhibition, and a slow decline in fine art sales in general. We are competing with cheap prints, and a minimalist mode of interior design prevalent amongst our country's TV pundits. All of this takes its toll in terms of cost and morale.
Of course, displaying art in the park remains a highly enjoyable experience, and we are well supported by local folk, as shown in the popularity of our new 'Gloucestershire Artist of the Year' competition this year. There is no shortage of artists wishing to exhibit. And sales of paintings are up on last year, despite the difficulties. One hopes we can continue to prevail against the odds...
Cheltenham’s Annual Open Air Art Exhibition
Every summer, for as long as many people can remember, Cheltenham has played host to the Open Air Art Exhibition. Set in the beautiful Imperial Gardens, opposite the prestigious Queens Hotel, the art exhibition shows the work of over 120 local artists. It has proven highly popular with local folk and tourists alike.
The success of the event is in no small part due to the remarkable talent on show. Over the years, the people of Cheltenham and the Cotswolds have enjoyed a sedate stroll along the length of the exhibition. It has become one of the summer traditions for shoppers visiting the town, and tourists to flock to. As a result, the exhibition is always over-subscribed by the artists, who range in experience from hobby painters right through to professional artists engaging directly with their public. This admixture of talent and style creates a colourful display, full of surprises and interest.
The exhibition is managed by a voluntary committee of artists from the area, and the event itself is run on a not-for-profit basis. Its aim is to provide an accessible interface between local artists and the public. As a result, the paintings on offer are available at prices very much lower than in the county’s commercial galleries. But it isn’t just the cost that makes the exhibition such an attraction. Accessibility of art is of paramount importance to those organising the event. The public can walk straight up to the exhibition from the town’s wonderful “Promenade”, and take as much time as they want wandering through.
Without doubt, the Cheltenham Open Air Art Exhibition is the most accessible art event in Gloucestershire, and brings art to the attention of many people who would not normally consider visiting a gallery.
For the artists, the Imperial Gardens are annually transformed into a mini-Montmartre. There is a chance to compare the work of many diverse talents; water-colourists, oil painters, and acrylic artists. Work varies from traditional Cotswold landscapes to portraiture and wildlife scenes. Some reproduce the work of Old Masters, others create colourful abstract work. The variety means that there is always something that appeals to everyone, and provides plenty of inspiration for the art of future years.
This year the Cheltenham Open Air Art Exhibition runs from Saturday 24th June to Sunday 23rd July. A different set of artists show their work during each of the four weeks of the event, maintaining a weekly turnover of variety and interest. A list of Cheltenham Art's participating artists will be posted on this page nearer the time so regular visitors seeking the work of their favourite artist can plan ahead.