open Art 2024 – Accessible Art Across Folkestone

Open Art 2024 is a new initiative run by a committee of local Folkestone artists.  Everyone involved is donating their time to deliver art exhibitions, open studios, meet the artist sessions and more around Folkestone from 13th to 22nd September 2024.  Any artist can apply to exhibit and are encouraged to collaborate with colleagues for the 10 days. Folkelife met a selection of the committee to find out more.

Thurle Wright: “The idea of Open Art 2024 came from when I went to visit these handsome chaps’ studios (Ernst Fischer and Rob Birch).  There’s been an ‘open studios’ event in June run by Creative Folkestone but we, as artists, never get a chance to see each other’s studios as we’re always operating our own at the time.  I realised I knew Ernst and Rob but I’d never been into their studios to know how they work.  So, we wandered around each other’s spaces and had an idea that we should support each other, build a network so we can work together all year round.  We also thought that we could have our own Open Studios season where artists could collaborate with each other, allowing space and time for talks, and time for people who aren’t part of the creative network to see what we do.”

creative folkestone

Thurle: “We approached Creative Folkestone who were very supportive of this idea, and have given us funds to put on our first event.  We’re asking for applications from artists who work in Folkestone to apply by 19th July.  You need to be able to fund your own idea, but we’ll help in finding a place if you need it, to exhibit, and we can also connect artists together so that you can build networks and creative ideas.”

Ernst Fischer: “We were chatting and realised there are a lot of overlaps in our work. Some art is very solitary and in visiting each other’s studios we found we were inspiring each other.  This can’t be left to just one organisation to do – to introduce all the artists in Folkestone and mix and match to get collaborations working.  This is something that happens when there are opportunities to meet and interact and then networks grow.”

Thurle Wright
Alex Sowa
Ernst Fischer
Rob Birch
Alex Boican
Open Art 2024
Open Art 2024 Chloe Osbourne

the committee

The committee is made up of Thurle Wright who works between fine arts, textiles and book arts; Ernst Fischer, a performance artist; Rob Birch, collage-based visual art; Sangmin Cha and Becca Pelly-Fry, curators; Mark Millsted, painter, but not exclusively; Michał Kamil Piotrowski, visual poet; Chloe Osbourne, Alex Boican, Steven Aron Williams, Rosie Mocket and Alex Sowa.  There are lots of other volunteers helping too.

Rob Birch: “There’s one thing talking about doing something like this, but it’s another actually organising it.  We’re all artists and sometimes organising isn’t what we want to do.  So thankfully Sangmin and Becca came on board.”

Becca Pelly-Fry: “Because Open Art is happening in September we have a limited amount of time to fundraise.  We’ve got £5,000 from Creative Folkestone which is fantastic, but we’re still looking for sponsorship from others.  Jonathan Berlow, the architect, and Simon Davenport from S3 are both on board as Gold Sponsors which is great, and many thanks go to them.

But because of our limited time, Sangmin and I decided we need to keep things simple this year.  It’s a pilot, so we’re keeping it light and fun!  We’ve got a marketing strategy to help promote everyone’s work, but because we’re all volunteers this year every artist needs to be completely self-organised.”

the plan

Thurle: “What we’re asking for is for people to apply with an idea.  You could be working with a team of artists, or by yourself, but it’s about showing and talking to visitors about the work that goes on here in Folkestone.”

Rob: “For example, I’m running my element from my flat, where my studio is.  People can come and see my art and what I do, where I do it and how I do it.  I’ll also be doing a talk at the Folkestone Bookshop, and I have ideas to do something else too.”

Ernst: “I work from D:NA on Tontine Street which is a really useful space that I’m happy to share.  I’ll be using it for a Late Night Tea Room with poetry readings and text-based performances.  This means that during the day, it could be a space for someone else to work in.”

evolving as we speak

Sangmin: “This project is evolving in front of our eyes.  It changes and grows with each application we receive and there are opportunities that we’d not thought of.  It looks like there’s going to be some garden art, and we’re looking to match up some performance as part of that.  

It’s important to note that this isn’t a massive art sale across the town.  A lot of these events will be free and are about the collaboration and interaction between people.  Some artists will be selling their work, but equally, you could go along to a completely free event and just experience something wonderful.”

Applications are due by 19th July 2024.  A programme will be released at the end of August and Open Art 2024 takes place in Folkestone from 13th to 22nd September 2024.

Discover more about folkestone below

Buchanan Art – Reaching Out Across Britain
Folkestone Artworks – The Largest Public Collection in the UK
Regenerating A Town Through Art – Creative Folkestone
The Place To Be – Folkestone Harbour

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