Disappointment as doors close on art trail

Date: Tuesday 6th February 2018

A FLAGSHIP county-wide arts trail which came in for criticism last year from visitors who found it hard to follow is to take a “rest” in 2018.

C-Art, co-ordinated by Eden Arts, offered artists the opportunity to open their studios to visitors as part of a showcase festival of art in Cumbria.

The initiative was launched in 2011, when more than 8,000 visits were made to artists’ studios, and it was hailed a phenomenal success. It went on to be crowned event of the year at the Cumbria Tourism awards in 2014.

The C-Art open studios fortnight had become a popular event for visitors and local people, providing a great opportunity to see a huge range of art being created in artists’ own studios. It was also seen as a valued way for the artists to show and sell their work.

However, last year confusion was created after Eden Arts announced that it was cutting the open studios event from two weeks to two days.

It was then decided that the studios would be open for a week — but some artists felt this was “too late and too unclear an offer to encourage more artists to join in.”

Haydn Morris, of Tirril, said: “The brochure promoting C-Art, which had been excellent, was reduced last year to a newsprint format which was difficult to follow. The feedback I received from visitors to my studio was disappointment with last year’s C-Art offer and its promotion.”

He added: “C-Art was one of the best open studio events in the country, and I hope that Eden Arts can use its creative abilities to restore it to the top of the tree, next year, if not this.”

Polly Marix Evans, a member of Eden Valley Artistic Network (EVAN), said: “Although festivals do occasionally take breaks, I feel it is a great disappointment to both artists and buyers of art that C-Art will not be running in 2018.

“C-Art has always been an important event for Cumbrian artists, and a great opportunity to meet the public in person as well as make sales. Many visitors to the area choose to book holidays to coincide with the open studios and I believe they will also be disappointed to find it isn’t running this year.

“It’s difficult enough trying to make a living as an artist without one of our major events being cancelled. Let’s hope some of the funding that would normally be directed towards C-Art can be made available for other organisations supporting the arts in Cumbria.”

Simon Whalley, director of EVAN, said: “I hope this resting allows the organisers an opportunity to fully engage with local artists groups like EVAN, Green Door and the Carlisle collectives to ensure that the art trail part of the event can once again flourish.

“The resting gives an opportunity for all parties to be engaged and invited to be part of the planning. I only hope this opportunity is taken by Eden Arts to fully engage with all interested parties now, not when all the decisions have been made.

“The leading artists’ groups could be given the funding and remit to organise the trail part of the event. We are good at talking to artists and organising art trails and open studio events. I live in hope of a more collaborative approach.”

In a statement to artists, Eden Arts said: “We are working on ways to keep increasing the profile of the event to even greater standards.

“We are really excited and pleased to be forging new partnerships with businesses and organisations who share our ambition of ensuring that Cumbria has a place on the regional and national and international stage.

“This all takes time, and rather than rush things through we have decided that the best way forward is to ‘rest’ C-Art for 2018.

“The next C-Art Festival will continue to promote high standard contemporary arts events, exhibitions, installations and performance, and provide commission and selling opportunities for artists. In line with Arts Council strategy our mission now is to build a festival of national significance and ensure that Cumbria is promoted as a cultural place.”