Over the Easter Break, I nipped over to Lancaster City Museum to see a new art exhibition that I’d received an invite to over Twitter. I didn’t know much about what I’d be seeing; however, I was delighted to find an active and diverse hub of the local arts community gathered in one place for the launch of a new exhibition and Lancaster Art Safari. On asking what the new program was one of the organisers, Julia Krier explained:

“It’s a self-guided walk around Lancaster and the art venues in the city. They are all permeant exhibitions that are on display, and each is showing a variety of art. Places like the City Museum are more traditional art venues, and then we’ve tried to showcase the places you wouldn’t normally expect art to be through the variety of venues we’ve included.”

The trail includes 16 different venues from across the city including historical landmarks like the Judges Lodgings and the Maritime Museum, cafes, shops, studios, theatres and Williamson Park into one handy pamphlet. The map contains information about each of the venues (for example, did you know that the Royal Kings Arms has a connection to Charles Dickens), locations and prices for the museums so everyone can plan their trips according to their personal schedule. 

“The best thing about it is that it won’t go out of date. Obviously, various events and exhibitions are going on now as a part of the launch, but it means people can walk around the town independently to see the art along the trail.”

The art exhibition in the museum itself, which will continue until 7th July, is full of nearly 100 individual pieces of art completed by local artists, all of which are available to purchase. Some like Stuart McDade’s gorgeous panoramic landscapes, painted in acrylics to give them a beautiful vibrancy, focus on the local area from Quernmore to Skerton Bridge. Morwena Wheatley’s ‘Cathedral’ took this focus on the local landscape a step further, creating a striking and more abstract piece in ink, cleverly playing with the colours of a stain glass window and the reflections of a stone floor beneath people’s feet. 

“The Friends of Lancaster City Museum are trying to encourage interest in the museum, so we started with this temporary art exhibition we are holding within the museum itself. We have a permeant collection going up the stairs, but people don’t often see those as they enter the front two rooms.”

One piece that particularly stood out was the work of Tom Boyle, whose oil paintings were stunningly professional and a delight to look at. His ‘Bouguereau Study’, while a copy of William-Adolphe Bouguereau work, demonstrated an acute precision and detail for painting that stood out across the gallery. On looking up his work further, I discovered that he is a classically trained painter and tutor based in the local area, and after seeing his work I’d certainly hire him as a teacher.  

Image courtesy of @theherbariumbar via Instagram

Gil Shaw’s ‘Sunshine and Showers, Morecambe’ is another piece that caught my eye, with its subtle oil tones culminating in a delicate yet dramatic scene of sun bursting through the clouds. The contrasting hues between the sunshine and showers created this dynamism that reminded me of Romantic painters like Turner and Martin that utilised oils to create this subtle sublimity in their work. 

By comparison, pieces like Stephanie Sykes ‘Dreams of the Sea’ utilised a different style of mixed media art, adding pages of books and netting to her canvas to create a very unique and unusual take on a familiar beach and bay setting. Various mixed-media pieces such as Carole Bennett’s ‘Untitled Blue (Circle Series)’ were equally clever. While abstract, Bennett’s use of circles to explore the interaction of pattern and colour was engaging. This vast variety of art has to be the highlight of the exhibition as a whole. To have such a wide range of artists and creative people in one place showcasing their work is an achievement in itself, and one which the organisers should be proud of.  

And it’s not just been the Museum that’s been celebrating the launch. The Herbarium cafe held Lino Printing workshops over the Easter break to get people creating art for themselves. Paul Talbot-Greaves gave a talk on “Landscape in watercolour emphasising strong contrasts” and, artist in residence, Tom Boyle did an open studio at the Herbarium to let people find out more about his work. David French showcased his talent in doing a live painting session outside and is continuing to exhibit his work at the Dukes Theatre in their gallery until May. There are many more events that I could list, but the point remains; Lancaster is a city bursting at the seams with art and creativity at every turn, from your morning coffee to your evening theatre tip. 

“There are loads of museums, shops and cafes that showcase the wonderful art we have in Lancaster, so the Art Safari was just about bringing them all together.”

This latest initiative from the friends of Lancaster City Museum and Lancaster Business Improvement District is one that I wholeheartedly recommend. It’s not only fun for families and new people visiting the city, but it is an excellent opportunity to unite business with the creative sector and create a collective in the centre of the town. It works both as a community, marketing, and tourism initiative, and it exhibits what makes Lancaster unique as a place. 

For more details about the exhibition or the events, head to Friends of Lancaster City Museum @FOLCM on Facebook and Twitter or search #lancasterartsafari to get involved on social media. 

You can collect a free Lancaster Art Safari guide from local information centres and the participating venues including: The Dukes, The Storey Judges’ Lodgings, Lancaster Maritime Museum, Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster Castle, Lancaster Arts, King Street Studios, Royal Kings Arms Hotel, The Gregson Centre, The Whale Tail Cafe, The Herbarium, Williamson Park, Arteria, and The Elles Gallery.