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This November, Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village has had to temporarily close its doors once again in response to the latest Covid-19 measures. However the Artists’ Village is pleased to announce that its Art & Action Season will continue online, with opportunities to explore the exhibition across the charity’s digital platforms and to join a programme of online talks and events.

Launching online this evening, Tuesday 17 November, Art & Action: Making Change in Victorian Britain considers how art was used as a vehicle for social change from the 1840s through to the end of the nineteenth century. As issues of poverty, hunger and disease all became increasingly urgent in industrial Britain, artists began to question how their work could benefit society. Featuring key works by, amongst others, Sir Luke Fildes (1843 – 1927), William Morris (1834 – 1896) and G F Watts (1817 – 1904), the exhibition explores how artists sought not only to comment on social problems but to use their art to actively help solve them. The exhibition is co-curated with Dr Chloe Ward, Senior Lecturer in the History of British Art at Queen Mary, University of London.

Through a curator-led video tour available at and the Smartify App, audiences will be able to experience the exhibition from home in advance of returning to Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village once the site is able to reopen.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of talks with leading contemporary artists, curators and changemakers who, through their own practice, seek to enact social change, improve lives and shape the future. The talks programme, which takes place live on Zoom, features:

Art, Action & Queering Spaces, Wednesday 18 November 2020, 6 – 7.30pm

To consider the role of queer identities in creative practice and the need to bring queer activism into museums, galleries and public spaces, Dan Vo, project manager of the Queer Heritage and Collections Network supported by the Art Fund, will be in conversation with Corinne Cumming, Artistic Director of Pride Inside UK; Patrick McCrae, CEO of Artiq and Founder of Queer Frontiers; socially engaged artist and curator, Guillaume Vandame and award-winning illustrator, painter and poet, Ashton Attzs.

Art, Action, Beyond Two Cultures, Wednesday 2 December 2020, 6 – 7pm
For more than twenty years, artist Dr Chila Kumari Singh Burman has been at the forefront of socially engaged practice with her powerful images exploring cultural identity, gender, representation and class. This month, Burman’s Winter Commission for Tate Britain opens. In this conversation, Burman will be joined by eminent art historian Professor Lynda Nead to discuss the roots of her practice and ideas of personal and political agency in her works for the public realm.

Art, Action & Poverty, Wednesday 20 January 2021, 6 – 7.30pm
Just as G F Watts documented the plight of the poor, poverty and social injustice remain a pressing issue for both contemporary artists and activists. In this talk, former Deputy Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Abigail Scott Paul, will be in conversation with internationally renowned photographer, Jillian Edelstein, to discuss the responsibility of artists and philanthropic organisations in highlighting the stories and experiences of those living in poverty today.

Art, Action & Design, Wednesday 17 February 2021, 6 – 7pm
Taking the Arts & Crafts principle of collective design and collaboration, what potential do design teams today have in tackling the biggest challenges we face such as climate change, wealth inequality and racial injustice? The team behind the UK non-profit Shift, CEO Nick Stanhope and Innovation Director Tayo Medupin, will share their radically different approaches to tackling inequalities through collective ways of working and design.

Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said:

“Our doors may be closed but our founding mission to provide Art for All continues. This exhibition will reveal how, during the Victorian era, art came to be recognised as a powerful tool that could be a catalyst for social change”

“G F and Mary Watts, co-founders of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, shared this ethos and through our programme of talks we will explore how contemporary artistic practice upholds this commitment to improve lives today.”

Dr Cicely Robinson, Brice Chief Curator at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, said:

“In G F Watts’s words, art plays a key part in ‘the world’s well-being… [and is] more than ever valuable, and even necessary, in an age, like the present’. Inspired by a sentiment that seems more relevant than ever, the team at Watts Gallery are delighted to proceed with a virtual launch of the Art & Action exhibition. In advance of welcoming visitors back to the Artists’ Village, we hope that the virtual curator tour and online talks will provide new insights into this significant and timely subject.”

Art & Action Season at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village launches online on Tuesday 17 November via and also on Smartify.

Tickets for the talks programme (£10/£9 Friends of Watts Gallery-Artists’ Village) which will take place on Zoom can be booked at

For further information: @WattsGallery Facebook/wattsgalleryartistsvillage

Photo: Luke Hayes