Art Spring Gallery
I came across Art Spring Gallery via twitter, it is a artist co-operative gallery in Tonbridge, Kent. Each artist pays for a membership, and that fee goes towards the running of the gallery. Each artist shares responsibility for invigilating the space, and every first Thursday of the month a private view is held, with more shops on the street taking part this month. You don't have to be a member as guest artists can even take over the window. Located on the north end of Tonbridge old hughstreet, the gallery is quick establishing itself as a 'must see' for art.
The artists involved come from a range of artistic backgrounds including painting, ceramics and silver-smithing; meaning there's something that can appeal to everyone. I spoke to Hildegard Pax, one of the founders, to find out more about their experience of setting up the gallery.
F&A: What was the driving force behind setting up this artists-cooperative gallery?
HP: The Tonbridge Creative group was founded back in 2012 by a group of artists regularly exhibiting their work at the annual South East Open Studios event, with the aim to organise local exhibitions for the group members. Tonbridge School was prepared to let us hire their Tunnel Gallery space (which is generally used to showcase work by the own students) for a week long exhibition at Easter 2013, in which 10 artists participated, and which was a great success for the group. We proceeded to organise two more easter shows at the Tunnel Gallery, and in November 2015 we had the opportunity to take a shop on The Pantiles as a pop-up. The success of that ignited a dream that we might be able to organise something more permanent, and when we spotted a suitable property in Tonbridge High Street a core group started to meet regularly.
F&A: Did you and the other founding artists feel there was a gap in the area for a gallery like this?
HP: Absolutely! Even though Tonbridge has an art college, there were no galleries in the town. The last gallery in the town had closed down back in 2002. A local gift and wine shop had opened up their upstairs space to show work by young artists, but has since closed down, and the only option open to artists showing their work was to hire a local exhibition space when they could, and Tonbridge landlords in general were not open to the idea of short term lets or pop-ups. Tonbridge School opened the Old Big School Gallery back in 2015, but only opens up to the public for two or three curated exhibitions a year on weekends, so does not offer opportunities for work by local artists to be shown on a ongoing basis. We maintain good links with the Tonbridge School exhibition team and continue to promote each other's events.
F&A: How long did it take to finally open the doors of ArtSpring?
HP: We discovered the empty shop space at the end of 2015, and when we enquired about it at the estate agents, it turned out the owners where on the premises, and we had a good chat, and they were keen on the idea of the space turning into an art gallery, rather than another barber. It then took an agonising six months before we could sign the contract and start the fit-out of the space. We got the keys on 1 June, and opened our doors to the public on 8 July 2017. Our original lease is for one year, but we're not planning to leave any time soon and will continue to lease the space from our very enthusiastic and supportive landlady.
F&A: What are your hopes for ArtSpring's future?
HP: We hope to build on our local reputation and extend our regional reach and attract more visitors and customers, and to continue to give artists the opportunity to show and sell their work to a growing audience. Plans for the future could also include the addition of workshop and studio space for practising artists to hire, thus expanding the opportunities for artists in Tonbridge and beyond.
As someone local to Tunbridge it's wonderful to see the gallery open and creating opportunities for local artists to share their work and work together.
Links to groups and galleries mentioned above:
Old Big School Gallery