It’s in our nature to support not only fellow independent businesses but any venture that gives artists opportunities to not just strive but to thrive. We were delighted to be invited to the awards ceremony for the ‘New Life’ art competition hosted by Park Gallery, Cheltenham, at The Queens Hotel on 20 April, to see this philosophy in action.
The awards were not only a recognition of talent but of the importance of mutualistic support – between artists and galleries, makers and appreciators, small enterprises and business associations as well as among artists (the established inspiring the emerging and arguably vice versa) and across the wider arts.
Awards judge, internationally renowned PJ Crook MBE, took the audience on an emotive journey, describing “the sheer joy of creating” and the juxtaposition with the potentially exposing experience as an artist of having artworks displayed “like hanging naked on the wall”. She also shared a heartfelt story of how unexpected success at an exhibition in her early career turned around a moment of financial crisis.
Quoting Bob Dylan, Crook urged the audience to “keep on keepin’ on”, a mantra that could be applied to not only the artists but all attending the event, whatever their occupation or vocation. “Anyone who enters a competition should be congratulated,” she encouraged. “Even if you don’t win this one, next time you might win.” The point is to try.
The ‘New Life’ art competition, supported by Cheltenham’s popular Christian Arts Festival, attracted 380 entries in the Open and Schools categories with works ranging from acrylic to oil, watercolour to digital media. Appraising the submissions, Crook was honest about her approach. “Art is subjective, you often choose what affects and moves you personally.”
The winner and runner up in both categories certainly stirred reactions in the audience. We’ll allow the pieces to speak for themselves, but one of the greatest joys of the evening was speaking to the artists who produced them. To hear the experiences that inspired their work, witness the pride (both audible and visible) in family members and find out about their methods and practice.
It served to underline why we do what we do at ArtÓ and our 'owned not loaned' ethos. We’re not just an art gallery, we’re an art community. We’re delighted to support other galleries which emancipate artists. We cherish our link with award-winning local artist Lindy Allfrey and recently sponsored a student to attend a three-day workshop at her studio in Stow-on-the-Wold, a stone’s throw from our door. We love that the town is full of small and passionate businesses.
PJ Crook is right. At the core, art is about the sheer joy of creating, a process that can ironically take an artist through the emotional ringer before emerging on the other side, replete with light. It is an act of doing, carrying on, working with dedication and care to a hoped-for outcome. Then relinquishing all sense of self and sharing that output with others, connecting.