Culture & Creative IndustriesNews

Watts Gallery Trust is taking part in the 2020 Big Give Christmas Challenge to raise vital funds for its community learning programme. Between 1 December and 8 December donations to the charity’s Art for All Community Learning programme will be doubled, helping the Trust to reach its £60,000 target.

Over the past twelve years, Watts Gallery Trust’s Art for All Community Learning programme has created access to art and to craft for thousands of people across Surrey who might not otherwise have this opportunity. Through artist-led workshops, the charity helps people to develop new skills, to build self-confidence and to experience how art and craft can enrich our lives.

These workshops are delivered free-of-charge to groups supporting young people in overcoming challenges such as homelessness, to charities helping people with a learning disability to achieve their full potential and to organisations working with young offenders and women prisoners to rebuild a better future – plus many more.

It costs over £90,000 each year to deliver the Art for All Community Learning programme and, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, this year the charity has faced its biggest challenge yet. Recognising that for many of the participants Art for All is a lifeline in their well-being, Watts Gallery Trust was determined that the programme must continue during the first and the current lockdowns. It quickly adapted to provide online workshops using Zoom and downloadable resources on the charity’s website, and it put together packs of artists’ materials that were delivered by the charity’s staff or posted to participants. During the first lockdown, 243 people took part in 86 digital and postal workshops.

Throughout this time the charity has been impacted by a significant shortfall in income as a result of the temporary closure of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village in response to Covid-19. The Artists’ Village, which is situated in the village of Compton, Surrey, was founded at the end of the 19th century by the artists and philanthropists George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817 – 1904) and his wife Mary Watts (1849 – 1938) to provide Art for All. The Wattses believed that art could improve people’s lives and it is their legacy that inspires the Art for All Community Learning programme today.

Ordinarily, Watts Gallery, the artists’ house and studios, Watts Chapel, Watts Contemporary Gallery, The Tea Shop, Watts Shop and the wider estate are open for visitors to enjoy, generating income for the charity to help maintain the Artists’ Village and to deliver the Art for All Community Learning programme. Between March and July, Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village was closed, and it is currently closed once again during the second national lockdown.

With an even greater need for funds as a result of Covid-19, Watts Gallery Trust is delighted to be able to take part in The 2020 Big Give Christmas Challenge and is very thankful to The Hazelhurst Trust and to The Reed Foundation for their generous matchfunding.

Commenting, Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said:

“We are committed to our mission to deliver the Art for All Community Learning programme. Many of our participants are amongst those to be most impacted by the isolation brought about by Covid-19 and it is vital that we are able to continue our programme.”

“Despite the considerable challenges we have faced this year, our team has worked tirelessly to keep delivering Art for All. Each year, we organise an exhibition at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village to celebrate everyone’s achievements and to provide participants with an opportunity to show and sell their work. In what continues to be an extremely difficult year, it was so important that this could still go ahead and we were very pleased to be able to make this happen online.”

“Please do support our charity during The Big Give Christmas Challenge if you are able to, and on behalf of Watts Gallery Trust I convey sincere thanks to The Hazelhurst Trust and The Reed Foundation for their generous matchfunding.”

Participants in the Art for All Community Learning programme said:

“Before the pandemic I never realised how much I rely on community – for support and friendship. Meeting online for workshops gives me a taste of this again – I’m not alone, it makes me think and its fun.”

“Even though we are apart our hands are making the same actions with the same materials and our eyes are thinking about the same paintings. It makes me feel so much closer to people.”

The Big Give runs the UK’s biggest match funding campaign, The Christmas Challenge. For seven days, it offers supporters of participating charities the opportunity to have their donation doubled. Founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Alec Reed CBE, the Christmas Challenge has raised millions of pounds for thousands of charity projects since it launched on the Big Give in 2008.

To find out more about Watts Gallery Trust’s Christmas Challenge and to make a donation, please visit Everyone who makes a donation will receive an art card featuring an artwork created by an Art for All Community Learning programme participant as a token of the charity’s thanks.

For further information: @WattsGallery facebook/thewattsgallery