by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer
Has a month really gone by already? How about 12 of them? Since our last #BuildUpdate we’ve reached a whole year since the Museum and Art Gallery closed so building and construction could start. Time certainly flies when you have a huge redevelopment project to deliver!
Just in case you didn’t see our social media posts on 3 September, here’s a throwback to the images from our fun-filled ‘Wrap Party’. Click on the picture below to see the full album……….
……….and here’s the video that marked the occasion too. In some ways it feels like we’ve been closed for longer, in other ways it feels like it was only yesterday.
On site, progress continues to be made with the piling works that I mentioned in our August post. We’re expecting the delivery of a crane soon as well. This will take a few days to put up but once it’s ready things should shift up yet another gear. I’ll have more information about this next month. Ourselves and our building contractors Willmott Dixon are also in the process of getting two large banners produced to go on the front of the scaffolding on North Hill. I’ll have more on this next month too.
Scaffolding has continued to go up around St Luke’s Church and the protective shrink wrap has also been installed.
Works are also ongoing inside St Luke’s to protect the pews that are staying and to level out the ground.
Our programme of Hard Hat Tours continues with great feedback and attendance. There are only a few places left on the 2pm tour next Friday (29 September). Spaces on the tours on 27 October and 24 November are also up for grabs – don’t leave it too late to book!
Here’s the latest footage from the construction site web cam:
I started this post with an anniversary and I’m going to finish with one too. It’s a slightly belated mention, but Willmott Dixon recently celebrated their Devon Office’s first anniversary – congratulations to them.
Thanks for reading. There’ll be more updates from the site next month.
Robert Borlase Smart was born in Kingsbridge, Devon in 1881.
During his early life he attended Plymouth School of Art and Plymouth College of Art. From 1900-01 he attended the Royal College of Art, training as a teacher.
From 1903-1913 he lived in Plymouth and worked as an art critic for the Western Morning News.
In 1913 he moved to St Ives to study seascape painting under the Anglo-Swedish painter Julius Olsson, only for the First World War to temporarily interrupt his plans.
At the outbreak of the War, Smart joined the Artist’s Rifles as a volunteer. In 1915 he was employed to make technical drawings for the Machine Gun Training Centre. Then, in July 1916, he saw active service and was stationed on the Somme.
It was a brief posting as he was recalled to Britain in the September to join the Machine Gun Corps. Despite this, the experience had a profound effect on him and he produced almost 40 war drawings – many of which featured scenes from his time in France. Some were purchased by the Imperial War Museum while others are in the collections here in Plymouth.
Smart’s short time at the front meant he had to work mostly from memory, sometimes aided by photographs. This did not diminish the quality of his work however. Like the examples shown in this post, his drawings are subtle yet powerful and clearly show the impact of the conflict.
In August 1917, Smart applied to become an Officer in the Indian Army. On his application he referred to himself as an artist, a specialist in instruction diagrams for Cavalry, Infantry and Machine Gun Training and a camouflage expert.
Given both his teaching and art qualifications, Smart found his niche as an instructor, particularly relating to camouflage, and he was very well-regarded. In fact, his application to the Indian Army was rejected because he could not be spared!
Lifelong friend, fellow WWI veteran and artist Leonard Fuller described him as someone who should be noted for his ‘boundless enthusiasm, his forthrightness and his helpfulness. These three things governed his life.’
In autumn 1917, Smart married nineteen year old Irene Godson in Surrey. She was the sister of a friend who had been killed in action. They settled in St Ives. With the exception of 1926 when they lived in Salcombe, he remained there until his death from a heart attack in 1947. During his post-war years he immersed himself in the life of St Ives and contributed greatly to its artistic community.
Today he is usually described as a coastal artist but he also produced a series of highly accomplished industrial and architectural drawings. In addition, his works from the First World War endure as a first-hand record of an artist and soldier’s experience.
You can find out more about Borlase Smart’s life and work on his official website.
As part of our ‘Plymouth Remembers’ programme you can hear a talk by one of our curators about Borlase Smart on 8 November. Find out all the details here.
by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer
In 2016 Plymouth was awarded £635,000 from Arts Council England’s ‘Ambition for Excellence’ funding scheme. The money has enabled a number of organisations in the city to come together to establish ‘Horizon’ – a two-year visual arts programme which, amongst other things, will support a series of talent development opportunities for artists and enable four major arts festivals and events to take place.
Two of these major events will be this and next year’s Plymouth Art Weekender (22-24 September). An international public art festival called the ‘Atlantic Project’ is scheduled for 2018 (more about this in the future). First though, we have ‘We The People Are The Work’.
We’ve been collaborating on this project with four other arts venues: Peninsula Arts at the University of Plymouth, The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Arts Centre and KARST. It will take the form of a multi-site exhibition which opens on 22 September. As the Museum and Art Gallery is closed our venue is the Council House. The exhibition has been curated by Simon Morrissey, the director of a Frome-based organisation called ‘Foreground’ which aims to bring new art to new audiences. Simon has been assisted by Plymouth-based producer Vickie Fear.
Six international artists will be showcased in ‘We The People Are The Work’. You can find out more about them all here.
The artist whose work will be displayed at the Council House is Lincoln-born, London-based Peter Liversidge.
Liversidge is an artist who ‘experiments with the idea of what is possible’, and who has always been interested in work that finds itself slightly outside of what is, at first, thought of as ‘fine art’.
All his artworks begin at his kitchen table with him sitting alone writing proposals on a manual typewriter. Some of these come to fruition, others don’t. What they all have in common is their ‘gently persistent questioning of the world around us’.
Over the last ten years Liversidge has worked with organisations in the UK, Germany, Holland, Iceland and the USA. In 2016 he developed a collection of songs and vocalisations inspired by the public’s relationship with Tate Modern’s iconic Turbine Hall. ‘The Bridge (A Choral Piece for Tate Modern)’ was performed in the Hall by a choir of 500 amateur singers.
For this particular commission the audience was just as much a part of the work as the work itself. This has interesting parallels with the ideas and aspirations behind our project, which has seen all six artists involve locally-based communities in the development or production of their artworks.
Liversidge’s ‘Sign Paintings for Plymouth’ brings together the ideas and voices of a range of individuals – many of which often go unheard. These provide the inspiration for a series of placards that you will be able to see being made in the Council House. The signs will be spread around the city, used in a ritual burning in the bonfire on The Hoe on 5 November and in a special Closing Day Party on 18 November. Liversidge will also have a temporary public artwork on the flagpoles on The Hoe in October and November.
Liversidge has worked with a number of participants including children from Salisbury Road Primary School, the Pioneers Project at Tamar View Community Resource Centre and members of Plymouth’s Youth Parliament.
If you’d like to find out more about him this 2009 article from The Guardian and 2013 ‘In The Studio’ feature from The Independent are interesting reads. You can also hear him give a Lunchtime Talk on Tuesday 7 November at the Plymouth Athenaeum.
Take a look at the website for full details about the exhibition and the wide-ranging programme of events that’s taking place while it’s on display.
‘We The People Are The Work’ runs from 22 September to 18 November.
by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer
I went to our offsite store for the first time recently and was given a tour by our Registrar Nicki Thomas. I took a few snaps while she was showing me around which I thought I would share with you in this week’s post.
Our works are stored over two floors. On one floor we have our Cottonian Collection, objects from our world cultures collection and, as shown in the photo below, crated works of art and some items that have recently returned to us from Buckland Abbey where they have been on loan.
We also have some enormous rolled canvases. This one is called ‘The Release of St Peter’. The frame, which as you can imagine is also huge, is stored separately. Storing large-scale items in this way is a much more practical solution.
When we were decanting the Museum last year our curators talked a lot about how the process was enabling them to learn more about the collections, verify and update our documentation and highlight areas that need to be prioritised for research. Nicki echoed this while she was showing me around.
This part of the store also contains some pieces of sculpture………
……….and our costume collection, all of which would have been frozen to minimise the likelihood of any bugs or pests in the fabrics, and then gone through a period of defrosting before being placed into storage.
On the other floor we have more art, some archaeology and more world cultures. We also have other resources and equipment. This floor is warmer and staff monitor the environment at all times to ensure everything is being stored in the most appropriate conditions. There are also workstation areas for staff and prep areas where works of art can be unwrapped or wrapped if needs be.
This wonderful artwork shown in one of the prep areas is ‘Kilchurn Castle’ by JMW Turner. It’s due to go on loan to the Scottish Portrait Gallery soon. They will be touring it and a number of other works by Turner to Japan. It’s likely that we’ll have a small number of additional loans going out to international venues in the near future. We’ll fill you in on these in a future post!
by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer
Since our last #BuildUpdate the demolition of the post-war extension at the back of the former Central Library has been completed.
With the building cleared you can really see the extent of the site for the first time – take a look at our web cam shot from 9 August below. A reduced level dig which will create the level surface needed for construction work, and piling which will provide the structural support needed for construction work, are both now underway. Don’t forget, you can keep a regular eye on the footage from our web cam via our website.
Another way to stay up to date with progress is by coming along to our Hard Hat Tours. We have now unveiled a new series of dates and times for the rest of the year. The tours have proven to be really popular so far, so if you want to come along it’s best to book your place as quickly as possible. Find out more from the what’s on section of our website.
You can also get an insight into what happens on one of our Hard Hat Tours in this video clip. A big thanks to our construction and regeneration specialists Willmott Dixon for their cooperation with making the video and for running the tours. Just click on the arrow to watch the video now (running time 1 minute 51 seconds).
Other developments this month include the completion of the scaffolding to the North Hill elevation of the former Museum and Art Gallery building. The scaffold ‘shrink wrap’ is also now in place and will protect the fabric of the building.
Those of you who use Regent Street and Tavistock Place will have noticed that scaffolding to part of the exterior of St Luke’s Church is also now in place. It’s been another productive month!
That’s all for this round up. We’ll have another #BuildUpdate for you in September that highlights yet more progress on site……….
With the ‘Our Beryl’ exhibition currently on display at the Council House and receiving brilliant feedback from everyone who visits it, we just had to feature Beryl Cook OBE (1926-2008) as this month’s History Hero!
Born Beryl Frances Lansley in Egham, Surrey in 1926, she would go on to produce an array of artworks full of larger than life characters that ‘ranged from stout lady bowlers goosing each other to middle-aged men in bikinis being serviced by Miss Whiplash.’ Many of her paintings feature scenes and locations from Plymouth.
Her work is instantly recognisable and highlights the fascination she had with people. Throughout her career she made no apology for the playfulness of her work: “What excites me is the joy, the animation, the pleasure in life,” she once told the Guardian.
“Beryl took great interest in people and loved to see them performing and enjoying themselves,” says her son John Cook. “From nightlife of all varieties, to the more innocent pursuits of line dancing and sunbathing, a diverse spectrum of human activity can be found in her paintings.”
Despite her strong sense of fun and popularity, Beryl was quite reserved and actually found fame hard to deal with: “She loved to imagine herself as an extrovert though,” says John. “She often painted herself in various guises such as on a motorbike, in a shiny corset, as a cheerleader or even dancing the tango.”
Our exhibition has been co-curated with Beryl’s family and they have a fantastic website where you can find out even more about her.
Visit the Arty Facts page to see a timeline which highlights key moments in her life – including her marriage to John Cook in 1948, her first exhibition at Plymouth Arts Centre in 1975 and receiving her OBE in 1995. Her ‘Girls on the Town’ painting was featured on a 1st class postage stamp the same year!
You can also read a great personal account written by her son John. His biography covers her early life, marriage, time in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), return to the UK, move to Plymouth in 1968 and artistic career.
Happy reading and don’t forget, the ‘Our Beryl: Beryl Cook at Home’ exhibition runs until the end of Saturday 9 September and is free to visit. Find out more about it here.
by Stacey Turner, Events and Audience Development Coordinator
Nothing quite makes you learn like jumping into the deep end. That has been my mantra since starting as the Events and Audience Development Coordinator for Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives in late April 2017.
Local Studies Day, the first event in the city-wide Plymouth History Festival programme, was my initiation. Since then I have been lucky enough to have worked on some awesome projects, from exhibition previews through to launching The Box at Drake Circus. Not bad for the first twelve weeks in a new job!
I have quickly learned that for an event to be successful we must all be working as one team. We release a new exhibitions and events programme each season and each department has a crucial role in the process. From initial concepts and ideas with the Programmes and Collections Teams to procurement and bookings with the Business Support Team (affectionately known as BuST), support from Front of House and advertising and social media support from Marketing.
It all adds up to a wide-ranging events and activities programme that we are currently calling our ‘Museum On Tour’ programme. Every 3 months we launch a new series of, on average 30+ activities that aim to engage with all our audiences in different ways.
Our autumn/winter programme will be released shortly and the team have come up with some cracking events for the rest of 2017.
We’re one of the partners for ‘We The People Are The Work’, a multi-site visual arts project with an exhibition that will be based across 5 sites in Plymouth, including the Council House. Opening to coincide with the start of the Plymouth Art Weekender (22–24 September), internationally renowned artists from Britain, France, Canada and Mexico will present their work to the public. Over 40 events will run at the various sites until mid-November. The perfect antidote to the days that will soon be drawing in and the lack of Love Island, Poldark and Game of Thrones……….
We’ll also have lots of other events and activities happening between now and Christmas – details of which will shortly go live on our website. I hope to see you soon at one or more of them!