All Saints, Skeyton
Exhibition in rural area showcasing local art for sale
Kaleidoscope 3 is the third iteration of an annual art exhibition at All Saints, Skeyton. The exhibition presents local artists’ work, all of which is available for sale. Most of the art on display is two dimensional work, although some mixed media and glasswork is incorporated. Prints, postcards, greeting cards and notebooks are also on sale. These works, along with a stall selling cake and hot drinks, comprise this annual event.
The Kaleidoscope exhibitions bring new people into the church, raise funds and serve as a social event for the community. The exhibition also provides a valuable platform for local artists to display their work, since other similar events have shut down in recent years.
All Saints Skeyton is an Early English medieval church with elements from the 13th Century onwards. Featuring a south west tower, continuous nave, chancel and south porch, the church has large windows and a light interior. The setting is rural and All Saints is the dominant feature in the immediate landscape. All Saints is one of eight parishes that make up the United Benefice of King’s Beck, all of which are served by the ministry of Rev’d Keith Dally.
A nearby church, St Andrew Felmingham, had in the past mounted an exhibition similar to Kaleidoscope but the organisers were unable to maintain the event and it ceased. Hearing of this, local artist Kate Cox saw an opportunity to raise some funds for the benefice and proposed to Rev’d Dally that they arrange for an art exhibition to be held at All Saints. It was concluded that aligning the dates with Norwich Dioceses’ Open Churches Week would best benefit footfall.
The pews in All Saints are unfixed which provides an opportunity to rearrange the space for displaying artwork. Book rests on the backs of pews moved into a display formation create additional space for showcasing two dimensional pieces and baskets of smaller items. Other churches in the area, that have fixed pews, are able to hire standing boards to use for the display of works. Rearranging the pews necessitated the help of willing volunteers, which widened community involvement and helped to spread word about the exhibition.
The costs associated with holding the exhibition were relatively low. Some advertising involved a small price but the organisers mostly use social media platforms in order to limit expenditure. Sandwich boards and lawn signs advertise the event at the church and nearby and the placement of adverts in local papers and on online notice boards has been successful. Facebook and Instagram posts have helped generate interest, along with the distribution of flyers and mention by word of mouth. By asking visitors how they heard of the exhibition, organisers are able to gauge how well different means of advertising worked.
Certain practical challenges do come with the church venue. It has no water or kitchen facilities, so water tanks are filled from a neighbour’s house. The church has marginally reduced access for people with physical disabilities.
There are no strict guidelines about what kinds of art can be submitted for display. Despite no formal theme being set for each exhibition, many of the artists are inspired by their environment and a theme of rural and coastal landscapes often emerges. Kate, along with co-organiser Sue Byrch, sends invitations via email to their network of artists (built up over the course of three years) three to four months in advance of the exhibition. These emails contain key information such as the exhibition dates and the date of the opening event, details of when to deposit and collect works for exhibition, details of how payment is taken for works as well as information about security provision. It is explained that a hanging fee of £2.00 per painting is required, and that a contribution of 10% of the price for any work sold goes to the King’s Beck Benefice. In order to propose work, artists are asked to return a form on which basic details of proposed works for exhibition must be given. Further details about individual artworks, such as dimensions, are requested one month prior to the exhibition’s opening date. A good relationship has been built up between the artists and the organisers over the three years that the exhibition has been running so there is little difficulty in communication during the planning stages.
Once they have received all the submissions, Kate and Sue decide on the display scheme.
Artworks are labeled with small identification cards which state the name of the work, the artist’s name and the price. These cards are made by the organisers to ensure uniformity in appearance and information. A small brochure is printed to go along with the exhibition, this includes information about the church, the exhibition and contact details for those artists that wish to have their information available to interested visitors.
‘People might think, ‘Why on earth is it called Kaleidoscope?’, it was meant to be because it is a jumble, it has no particular theme ... a lot of pieces all fitting together and making something lovely.’ Kate, Exhibition Organiser
The exhibition runs for three days over a weekend to ensure a balance between visitor numbers and volunteer time. The exhibition is invigilated at all times, as the works exhibited are not insured by the organisers. The church is dependent on the benefice members who come and support the exhibition by making the food for the tea station and staying in the church to manage it. Thanks to the efforts of these volunteers the cake and hot drinks stall makes a considerable contribution to the funds raised by the exhibition.
‘I don’t find this terribly difficult to organise ... the last week is busy and it is time consuming but it is not difficult ... if you’re efficient.’ Kate, Exhibition Organiser
Feedback from visitors and organisers has been generally positive and the organisers find the organisation process manageable and worthwhile. Minor challenges to the exhibition can be found in practical tasks such as moving pews. These are fairly heavy and require assistance from other community members to rearrange. The church’s toilet facilities are minimal, though this is made manageable by an accommodating neighbour.
The impact on the wider community is not easily measurable. Organisers remark that in an isolated village, engaging the locals can be difficult for a number of reasons. For example, many people commute to work and only return to the village on weekends, making them less ingrained in the village community. However, for those who are permanent residents of the village this event is well enjoyed. The community of local artists also benefits from Kaleidoscope. Artists living in rural locations can have fewer chances to view one another's work. The exhibition affords such an opportunity, creating an occasion for this community to gather socially and professionally in the midst of their work.
Asked if there were any words of advice they might offer to someone hoping to mount a similar exhibition, Kate and Sue replied that careful organisation was invaluable and that working with a team of people over several years to build relationships and perfect processes makes planning and executing the event very manageable.
‘It does get easier each year when you’ve got a core of people who are your helpers and your artists.’ Helen, Artist
‘I would say it is [...] community building, but it is long-term. Rome was not built in a day [...] I don’t know how long I’ll live in the village but it would be nice to think we’ve got a blueprint now [...] somebody could come along and do the same thing.’ Kate, Exhibition Organiser
Banner Image: All Saints, Skeyton exterior view