This piece was published in The Herald's Arts, Books and Cinema section on Saturday November 21 2009.
To find out more about the ongoing situation at Park Gallery, go to: http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/group.php?gid=147537202858
WINTER WARMTH 2009
The Park Gallery & Callendar House
Callendar Park, Falkirk
Until December 31
(The work on the left is a textile 'painting' called Moonlight and Secrets by Sarah Symes)
There aren’t many small council-run contemporary art galleries which you can visit on a damp, cold November morning and find not only a warm welcome, but a warm, well-designed and purpose-built venue which is graced by a steady stream of visitors.
The Park Gallery - established almost 10 years ago in an old stable block at the entrance to Callendar Park with Lottery and Scottish Arts Council funding - is the exception to the rule. This lively little gallery can boast visitor numbers which can knock bigger city centre galleries into a cocked hat.
Half way through 2009, visitor numbers had exceeded the figure for the whole of 2008 and by the end of the year, 50,000 people will have been through the door since it opened.
The Park Gallery also holds regular accessible exhibitions, such as the current one, Winter Warmth, which brings in considerable revenue because of the sheer quality of the work on display.
Winter Warmth, which is being held in The Park Gallery and nearby Callendar House, until the end of the year features the work of 60 local, national and international textile artists.
The polar opposite of the standard church hall craft fair fare, this exhibition showcases the whole gamut of modern textile art in a way which leaves the viewer smiling and gasping by degrees at the sheer ingenuity and originality of what’s on offer.
But this is no hang-out for black beret wearing aesthetes who make the rest of us feel excluded. Be it in Max Alexander’s killingly funny ‘knitted animation’ or Paola McClure’s zanily colourful soft sculptures, or even in Allison Weightman’s thought-provoking bullet-hole filled ceramic tiles ‘blanket’, there is something here for everyone to admire.
In something of a coup, Michael Brennad-Wood, one of the most innovative artists working in the field of textiles today, has work displayed here, as has up-and-coming Stirling-based fashion designer, Iona Crawford, described by Vogue as ‘one of the most avant garde designers emerging today.’
It’s notable that this exhibition is spread out over the two venues of the Park Gallery and Callendar House, as the latter has been ear-marked by Falkirk Council as the place where the Park Gallery should be ‘relocated’ to when and if it closes in June 2010.
As already documented in The Herald, Falkirk Council voted last month to close The Park Gallery next year and relocate it to Callendar House. This decision is still to be ratified and a ‘full consultation with the public, artists and funders’ has been promised before a final decision is made.
If I can throw in my tuppence worth into the consultation debate, the Callendar Hosue side of the Winter Warmth exhibition really shows up the shortcomings of this admittedly handsome listed Georgian pile as a venue for contemporary art exhibitions.
For a start, it’s freezing. So much for Winter Warmth. When I asked staff why it was so cold, I was informed the heating hadn’t worked properly for three years. It isn’t unknown for the place to be closed during the winter as it’s illegal for staff to work once the temperature dips to a certain level.
The contrasts between the room in which the Callendar House portion of the exhibition is being held and the Park Gallery - with its purpose-built facilities (tracking system for lighting, proper heating system to protect art work etc) couldn’t be more marked.
I’d hazard a guess that it would cost a lot more than the estimated £50,000 a year saved by closing the Park Gallery to refurbish and relocate in Callendar House. And what about the Lottery and Scottish Arts Council money used to establish the Park Gallery in 2000. Will that have to be paid back when it is mothballed?
It’s only my viewpoint, but I doubt very much that it will offer ‘artists and art lovers the chance to view and enjoy exhibits in a much better environment which will provide everyone with a greatly enhanced experience,’ as claimed by Councillor Adrian Mahoney, who recommended the gallery relocate in the first instance.
Politicking aside, go and see this wonderful exhibition. Better still, buy. I already started my Christmas shopping with a gorgeous glass necklace from local artist Gourlay Jenkins - a snip at just £20.
- The story so far
- I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org (All work © Jan Patience)