Culture & Creative IndustriesNews



A new report shows how Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village delivers social value to the communities it serves and how significant progress is being made to meet the needs of diverse groups across Surrey.


Art for All, written by Dr Helen Bowcock, provides clear evidence of the many different ways that people benefit from the charity and identifies how, through meaningful partnerships and the restoration of the Artists’ Village, Watts Gallery Trust is once again a valuable community asset.


The report confirms significant progress since earlier research in 2017[1] , and highlights the importance of philanthropy in enabling the on-going expansion of the Trust’s social impact.


Founded in the village of Compton, Surrey at the end of the 19th century by the great Victorian artist George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817 – 1904) and his wife, the artist and designer Mary Watts (1849 – 1938), Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village was established to provide Art for All.   The Wattses believed that art could improve people’s lives and they shared a commitment to create access to art and to craft for people who would not ordinarily have this opportunity.


Today, Watts Gallery Trust upholds this ethos, and through a far-reaching learning and outreach programme and pioneering exhibitions, the charity is able to deliver its founding mission to provide Art for All.


The Art for All report shows that there were 31,106 participations in learning activities delivered by Watts Gallery Trust in 2018/19, up from 7,360 in 2013. The report also highlights how:


Art for All is being developed to meet the needs of Watts Gallery’s culturally diverse community

On the doorstep of Watts Gallery is a zone which is in the lowest 5th percentile in England for Education, Skills and Training[2] and there are six prisons within 25 miles of the Artists’ Village.  Surrey is a county of stark contrasts, and through Art for All Watts Gallery Trust is working hard to enable wide public benefit across the community.

The strengthening and addition of new partnerships with other charities and local government authorities is extending the impact of Art for All

The Trust continues its transformative partnerships with HMP YOI Bronzefield, HMP YOI Feltham, HMP SEND, Surrey Youth Support Services and Waverley Schools Federation and since 2017 it has reached more members of the community through partnerships with Amber, DAiSY, halow, STAR, Surrey Choices, Surrey Young Carers and East London Textile Arts.

The return of the Artists’ Studios and House to the Artists’ Village is a valuable asset for learning

The opportunity to discover more about G F and Mary Watts ‘at home’ and to take inspiration from the artists’ studios has enriched the experience that Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is able to offer.  For schools, the Artists’ Village is now also a unique resource for learning about social history and heritage.

Independence and employability are enhanced through Art for All

Through artist-led workshops Watts Gallery Trust is helping to develop independence and employability. Participants in Art for All are able to sell their work at an annual exhibition and members of halow are now gaining work experience as stewards and in office administration.

Volunteering at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village creates an opportunity for lifelong learning and provides a strong sense of community

Watts Gallery could not operate without its dedicated volunteers, and this report shows how volunteers value being part of this community, welcoming the opportunity to ‘make a difference’ and for continued learning.

The Trust is collaborating with leading authorities to explore how technology can improve the social impact of museums

Working with the University of Surrey and museum app, Smartify, Watts Gallery is pioneering new ways of developing technology to improve accessibility and promote inclusion.


The report also highlights how the Old Pottery buildings – built to house the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild, a social enterprise established by Mary Watts to provide employment for the village – are once again enabling the charity to generate income which contributes towards the costs of the Art for All programme.  By sourcing from local suppliers, the Tea Shop supports the local economy and through exhibitions of work by local artists, Watts Contemporary creates an opportunity for artists to sell their work.


Dr Helen Bowcock says:


“It has been a great pleasure to have had reason to spend time at Watts Gallery-Artists’ Village in preparing this report, but more significantly to see just how many other people gain from its culture and ethos. We are fortunate to have this excellent arts organisation so close to home and, thankfully, through philanthropic gifts, the legacy of G F and Mary Watts was saved to the great benefit of so many people.”


Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said:


“Our founders’ ethos of Art for All is the beating heart of Watts Gallery Trust’s mission and vision. We live that mission and vision through a belief that the arts have an essential role to play in all our lives and can have a lasting positive impact on the participants in our programmes. I am grateful to Dr Helen Bowcock for her superb research into our social impact here and in the wider community and to our staff and supporters for enabling the artist in every one of us to shine. Helen’s report highlights the ‘virtuous circle’ of volunteering, and I would like to take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt thanks to our volunteers for the central role they play in empowering creativity and participation.”


George Knights, Director of the Waverley Schools Federation which includes STAR – a programme to support vulnerable learners who struggle for different reasons at school – said:


“The quality of the Art for All programme is exceptionally high, providing the opportunity to work with professional artists and where everyone is so empathetic and kind.  It is a wonderful respite which provides an atmosphere of calm, away from the anxiety of the school bell and where STAR members feel accepted and safe.”


Caroline Marcus, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Group for Education in Museums, says:


“Watts Gallery is an exemplar of a socially engaged but practical mission, they live and breathe the mission of community engagement.  It is exactly what we talk about, how to change lives.”


Sir Vernon Ellis, who has written a Foreword for the report, says:


“I was struck immediately by the breadth, depth and impact of the partnerships created by Watts Gallery Trust.  Also by the strong sense of place and how this reinforces the role of a cultural organisation within a community.  The work of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village both at the gallery and beyond, with schools, prisons and many different vulnerable groups provides many shining examples of a unified purpose to make a significant positive impact on the community.”


To download a copy of the report:


For further information:     @WattsGallery         facebook/thewattsgallery


Photo: Chris Pavia, Senior Dance Artist at Stopgap Dance Company, performs Captain’s Duties in Watts Gallery.