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Trumpet Blown

 

I get told at fairly regular intervals that Jerwood Gallery doesn’t blow its own trumpet very well. That we don’t talk about what’s going on here; tell the amazing stories of the people who come and the things they get up to. That’s my fault, really. I’m a bit too British.

In the five and a half years since the gallery opened in Hastings, our town has seen such change. It is tangible, whether you live here or are just visiting. This is not just because of Jerwood Gallery – the Pier, the amazing independent traders in the town, the boom in St Leonards, some amazing festivals, great people at the Council who are so committed to the regeneration of the town, and the locals who simply believe in the place and love it. Where Hastings and St Leonards are today is a huge team effort.

There I go again, you see, blowing other people’s trumpets.  This is difficult for me.

Maybe I’ll start with what I love about it. Jerwood Gallery is an amazing place to work – right on the beach, so much happening around us on the Stade, the fishing beach and Rock-a-Nore Road. The building possesses a quiet tranquillity in the centre of this business. It seems to tune in to the changing light, the changing seasons, but even when it’s full of people that tranquil, light-filled sense of space remains.

Amazing people work and volunteer here too. We’re a small team, we work in a very small office, but people in the Visual Arts industry say of us that we punch above our weight. I’m proud of us for that. We mount about 11 exhibitions a year, welcome 50,000 visitors and have nearly 2000 members giving us various levels of support. We couldn’t do it without the 60 volunteers though. They plug the gaps, serve in endless ways, and bring life and energy with their individual skills and gifts. Some are students, some retired, some looking for work and gaining experience, some are artists who come to immerse themselves, some are new to the area and wanting to make friends. Whatever the motivation, they are committed and wonderful.

And then there are the children. Talk about energy! We are visited by hundreds of school children every year. I love to see them lying on their tummies on the floor in the galleries drawing on big pieces of paper. Another thing they do is write on a post-it-note how a painting makes them feel, or what they think the artist is trying to say, and stick it to the wall under the painting. They say things like “the lobster is sad to be on the table” (good point), “the artist is cross” (he was), “this is a nice field I like it”. Always spot on, always delightful. They give to us as much as we hope we give to them.

Every year we see children who live in Hastings who have never been to the beach before. That fact moves me so much, it spurs me on. It has to be why we do what we do here; to give those children a chance to experience a world outside their every day, to engage with their imagination and to benefit from memorable experiences, rich in creativity that allows them to connect with something within them.

Since it opened, the gallery has been funded by Jerwood Foundation, who also built it to house the Jerwood Collection of Modern British Art. The rest of what it costs to run the place we cover by the ticket price and our commercial activity – shop, hires, café etc. We also fundraise. From April 2018 Art Council England will make us part of their National Portfolio of funded organisations, which means that for the first time we will receive public funding. This will enable us to grow as an organisation, to work with more people on more projects so that the gallery becomes more of a resource to the area and a cultural hub for Hastings.

We believe this area deserves a really, really good art gallery. We want people to come to this town because they have heard of the gallery, and then the town benefits from what they bring. 66% of the visitors who come to Jerwood Gallery from outside the area would not have come to Hastings if the gallery had not been here. They won’t come unless we do what we do well, we get the press coverage, we become known for excellence. I am happy to report that that ambition is doing rather well.

‘With this people’s show of controversial but loved national and local artist Jerwood Gallery is stating its place as a gallery of international standing that is a local resource and landmark.’ – Arts Industry, 1 March 2016

‘Simply one of the most interesting exhibitions I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. Congratulations!’

‘Great exhibitions in beautiful spaces… Really friendly staff too.’

To find out more about Jerwood Gallery, find us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Or you can just turn up, 11am – 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays.