Five years ago, when we collected the keys to Bridge House, our ideas about establishing a physical centre for drawing and contemporary art for Drawing Projects UK started to transform into reality.
Looking for a new live-work space in the area, Bridge House serendipitously provided the opportunity to expand Drawing Projects UK as a centre for the research and development of drawing and contemporary art in Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire. Drawing Projects UK was established in 2009 to develop, organise and promote projects that provide opportunities to experience drawing and to gain knowledge and understanding of drawing in the UK, including the Jerwood Drawing Prize annual exhibition project, now the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize project.
While our anniversary of acquiring our handsome building is being celebrated behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Drawing Projects UK has evolved into the hub we came to envisage. It provides a place for making, seeing, and discussing drawing and contemporary art, and has created an extended community through drawing and provides a welcoming space for all to meet, to test new ideas and to generate new work. We aim to continue to build on and expand our programmes, to support our community and growing hub for drawing and creative practices and we hope we will be able to re-open our doors soon. Meanwhile, we are re-imagining how we connect and present programmes that rely on interaction and the exploration of creativity through physical making and engagement. Our audience is largely events driven, and the motto above our front door, ‘Unity is Strength’, seems ever more pertinent as we reflect on what it is to be human in an interconnected society.
Drawing Projects UK has built a reputation for providing a platform for drawing and our support for the testing of the role of drawing within creative practice. Our gallery programme that reflects that premise, and since 2016, we have presented solo exhibitions that include Theatre of Dreams, by Australian artist Wendy Sharpe, drawings for the Forest of Imagination by landscape designer Andrew Grant, painting and drawings by Eleanor Bartlett, drawings by Anita Taylor, Sketchbooks: An Obsession by Elisa Alaluusua supported by the Finnish Institute, Flood Story by Gerry Davies, Drawings of Different Sizes by Michael Pennie, A Dawn Chorus by Mike Collier, Shaped Space by George Meyrick, Drawing Out the Canal by Simon Woolham which documented a walk along the Kennet & Avon canal, and Monuments Remain by Ian Chamberlain. Thematic and collaborative shows have included From the Ground: Mandy Bonnell & James Brooks; Greyscale by Sydney-based artists Peter Burgess, Julia Davis, Adrian Gebers, Pollyxenia Joannou and Lisa Jones. In Between Sea and Shore was the outcome of the Bath Spa University Porthleven Residency, and Thinking Graphite was the outcome of a residency at the Viarco pencil factory in Portugal by artists from London, Melbourne, Amsterdam and Wales, Sarah Duyshart, Janine Hall, Emma Louise Hollaway, Caroline Holt-Wilson, Jo Lane, Ellis Scheer and Charmaine Watkiss.
Thematic exhibitions curated by Gary Sangster and Anita Taylor have included a wide range of national and international artists and makers in shows such as: See View, Line Up, Consequences, Around the World, and Stockpile. Our very first exhibition in 2015 was Drawing: Facts and Fictions which flowed through the building and launched our programme and project space, followed by the touring exhibition of the ING Discerning Eye Collection in 2016. We presented the very last showing of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 and the first Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2018 exhibitions, each including over 65 drawings by emerging and established artists chosen by distinguished selection panels from a large submissions of works. You can read about our exhibition projects under the Exhibitions section of the website.
Our future programme, currently on hold, includes a solo exhibition of notebook drawings by Professor of Fashion and Design and fashion journalist, Iain R. Webb, and Drawing Matter: Eleanor Bartlett, Lucinda Burgess, Carole Pearson, artists who have all exhibited with us previously with Carole and Eleanor also undertaking residencies here too. Other drawing practitioners-in-residence have included filmmaker Mairead McClean, sculptor Anna Gillespie, painter and printmaker Sandra Porter, and Australian painter Sophie Cape. Projects under our Open to Draw programme have also included Yorkshire-based artists Andy Black, Kate Black, Tracy Himsworth, Lucy O’Donnell, and Sally Taylor, and Birmingham-based Saranjit Birdi for his Mapping Bones project. The residential accommodation available in the refurbished Caretaker’s Quarters has made projects and our Drawing Sessions and Drawing Discussions by drawing practitioners from across the UK and overseas feasible and, in 2019, we welcomed Alys Scott Hawkins and Chloe Briggs of Drawing is Free, Simon Woolham during his project supported by the University of Huddersfield, Greig Burgoyne & Lucy O’Donnell, resulting in their performance and exhibition Between the Sunny and the Opaque.
We have worked in partnership with Trowbridge Museum and Town Hall Arts to establish Explore Art in Trowbridge (EAT), delivering 3-4 events per year, including Heritage Open Day, and in 2019 Trowbridge Museum presented the biennial West of England Festival of Textiles – WEFT 2019 - in our Project Space. We have produced extensive onsite and off-site programmes in 2019 alongside the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2019 whilst on show at The Salisbury Museum and in January 2020 at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London. This included delivery of symposia, workshops and partnerships with galleries and museums across Wiltshire, and with the Royal Drawing School, Future Textiles and Parker Harris at Trinity Buoy Wharf. In 2019, we were thrilled that the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize project was invited to participate in the inaugural Draw Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery in London, and to deliver a panel discussion in the public programme. We published the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2019 publication, and Sandra Porter’s exhibition catalogue in association with her exhibition at Stroud Museum supported by Arts Council England. And we were thrilled to see Barbara Walker's exhibition, Vanishing Point, at Jerwood Contemporary achieve such acclaim in 2018/19.
Our Drawing Discussions at Drawing Projects UK have drawn wide audiences and have included Michael Sandle RA, Nigel Hall RA, Dr Sarah Simblet, Deanna Petherbridge CBE, Emma Hill, Gabriel Gbadomosi, Jose Vieira, as well as our exhibiting artists. Makers Talks have been presented by Alice Kettle and Michael Angove. Drawing Sessions have been led by Alex Roberts, Michele Whiting, Tania Kovats, Charmaine Watkiss, Caroline Burraway, Saranjit Birdi, Sarah Simblet, Anita Taylor; and Fritz Horstman of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation delivered Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color workshop.
A number of drawing groups have also found their home in the Project Space: Michele Whiting’s Exploring Drawing group, Emma Gregory’s Collaborative Drawing Research Group, and Fhiona McKie’s drawing ‘reading group’. The Project Space has regular Drawing Sessions and Drawing Discussions; and our meeting rooms are used by numerous community groups.
The Trowbridge Poetry Society Stanza group meet on the first Saturday afternoon of every month and bring an audience from across the South West and beyond to their guest poets, open-mic sessions and workshops organised by poet Josephine Corcoran. Guest readers have included: Hilda Sheehan, Pey Pey Oh, Tom Sastry, Safiya Kinshasa AKA Birdspeed, Kathy Pimlott, David Clarke, Dawn Gorman, Shauna Robertson, Anthony Wilson. Alasdair Paterson, Jessica Mookherjee, Marvin Thompson, Abigail Parry, Stephen Lightbown, and Caleb Parkin.
The Girl Friday Breakfast Club was launched during the centenary celebrations of women’s suffrage and meets on the last Friday of every month. We are fortunate to have attracted an array of inspiring speakers includingHelen Legg, Alice Workman, Irma Eloff, Elissa Auther, Elena Hill, Kate Pullinger, Tamsin Treverton-Jones, Laura Brown, Debbie Hillyerd, Nelle Aarne, Paula Orrell, Emily Pomroy Smith, Fiona Cassidy, Mandy Bonnell, Tania Kovats, Pat Black, Mairead McClean, Mariele Neudecker, and Sara Pepper. In the context of the current 'lockdown', we are hoping to develop a virtual breakfast club, which will include a range of inspirational women discussing their careers and projects and inspiring others.
Our ten studios and workspaces are occupied by artists, designers, makers, and counsellors, making this a thriving creative community. Miranda’s Coffee Shop is pivotal to this sense of community, providing a hub to meet and a daily service on site to the public. Miranda’s is a family-run café providing refreshments for our many guests, catering for in-house events and room bookings, off-site catering and, currently, providing a delivery and takeaway service supplying Miranda’s delicious baking and light meals.
Without the support, engagement, and generosity, of so many people as participants, helpers, volunteers and champions, and those who have brought their own creative ingenuity, networks and funding, we could not have achieved so much. We have been incredibly lucky to receive in-kind and financial support for Drawing Projects UK – from individuals and from private, commercial, philanthropic and public funders, including from the Bridge House Community Trust and Messums Wiltshire.
We still have much to do, and we look forward to ensuring that Drawing Projects UK is a sustainable and compelling creative hub in the county town of Wiltshire, now and into the future, and in addition to our many off-site projects, activities and exciting plans ahead.
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