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Covid creativity is a thing! How art is flourishing under lockdow.

Everyone is aware that the COVID pandemic has been disastrous for lives, livelihoods, mental health and business throughout the country. However, for some artists, there have been distinct silver linings. Lockdown has given time for many to explore new artistic avenues, whilst new audiences are taking an interest.

The Covid crisis meant the cancellation of art fairs and has impacted on many artists who rely on these events to showcase their work  

However, Kate Winskill recognised that the plethora of empty premises on the high street offered an opportunity to bring original artwork to the wider public. 

The Pop Up Gallery Emerges

As an artist & owner of gallery 1of1design in Teddington from 2013-2019, Kate has considerable experience in both making & selling art. 

In her view, “The great majority of people like things of colour and interest on their walls – especially in lockdown when we spend time staring at the same walls- but only a minority will ever venture into a gallery or art fair to buy original art” 

She has seized upon the availability of empty high street shops and recognised the opportunity they offer to artists to extend the reach of their work. 

Her first venture into pop up galleries was in January 2020, when a contact at Eden Walk in Kingston offered Kate the chance to cheer up an empty unit with colourful artwork before new tenants moved in. 

“Unfortunately the first lockdown happened which stopped us opening, but we were still able to use the windows to show our work in a great space”.

This publicity led to a few enquiries and limited sales but importantly sowed the seeds of the High Street Pop Up Gallery. 

Since this initial venture, Kate has gone on to organise temporary pop up galleries across the southeast in Bournemouth, Letchworth and Banbury. Currently, she has work by over a dozen artists in retail premises in Winchester, Slough, Chineham near Basingstoke and the Ealing Broadway Centre. 

Putting the empty high street shops to good use

“We have been fortunate to work with some fantastic retail management teams, particularly at Ealing Broadway. They have been very open to supporting artists and have really seen the benefits of having colourful contemporary art filling windows, which would otherwise be depressingly empty. And it’s not literally ‘window dressing’, the venture has helped to provide real income to freelancers badly hit by Covid disruption”, says Kate.

The Ealing Gallery has been the most ambitious pop up, being open 7 days a week during October and early December. 

“The feedback from customers was fantastic – they felt it really offered something different to a high street shopping experience. And because the shop was manned by the artists, it gave them a chance to engage with people to find out about the work they liked”. 

There are customers out there and they are discovering affordable art  

Although many people are in dire financial straits during lockdown, many who are lucky enough to have a job, have been forced to save money – no holidays, meals in restaurants or weekend breaks DIY and paint suppliers were overwhelmed in 2020 as, stay at home has meant people re-evaluating their home surroundings. 

And that has meant a chance to consider putting something on the walls other than a mass-produced IKEA canvas or family photos. 

“Most of the customers who have visited our pop up galleries have been surprised at how affordable original art can be. Our artists love producing art – that’s what motivates them and what they really want to do. So they would rather sell their work than have it sitting in a storeroom!’

During lockdown, art is on display in gallery windows at Oak Road, Ealing, W5 3SS and the Old Post Office, Chineham Shopping Centre, Basingstoke RG248BQ. Details on how to buy and Covid safe delivery are displayed there or visit www.1of1design.co.uk to buy online.

You may also enjoy reading https://darlingmagazine.co.uk/our-stories/getting-your-art-fix-in-the-lockdown-with-art-consultant-charissa-risley/

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