The founding of Hagley Art Club
In October 1988 the Hagley Village News carried the headline:
“Calling all artists and non-artists”,
“Can you paint and sketch?”,
“ Would you like to be able to draw and create interesting pictures?”,
“ Do you consider your skills in art limited?”
Providing there’s enough interest, Hagley is a large enough community to be able to have its own Art Club.
A chance remark by Ann Garth (active member for 30 years) about starting an art club when she retired, must have sown the seed of an idea to her friend Alan Pritchard. The above article invited local Hagley residents with an interest in the visual arts to attend the opening meeting of the Hagley Art Club. 14 people did and that is where it all began. The club officially opened in January 1989 with a committee consisting of Beryl Coates Chairman Alan Pritchard Honorary Secretary, Anne Garth Assistant Secretary, Gerald Emery,Treasurer, and a further five members.
The ethos of the club has always been to offer opportunities for anyone with an interest in art, whatever medium, to be involved in social activities with others with similar interests. From the beginning, no qualifying conditions of membership were required and this policy has never changed. Everyone, whether professional or enthusiastic amateur or simply having an interest in the arts was and still is very welcome.
The main activities of the club were a talk/demonstration to the membership from professional artists such as Geoff Kersey and others from the art world, which took place on the second Friday of the month at St. Saviours Church Hall in Hagley and it still does.
In addition, there was a weekly afternoon painting session at Churchill Village Hall which was an informal opportunity for people to meet and work together in a social atmosphere. No tutor was provided as the sessions were self-tutored with each artist helping each other.
Also one Saturday a month could be spent joining the group for an afternoon of painting and sketching “en plein air” that is, outdoors (weather permitting)
With visits to local art galleries and exhibitions the club thrived and at some periods had up to 100 members. Their 10th anniversary saw the club taking a trip following the footsteps of Monet to his garden in Giverny, Paris and Rouen. With an original yearly membership of £6 (1989) which also allowed members opportunities to exhibit their work in public exhibitions what’s not to love?
For me looking back over the archive material (wonderfully collated by Anne Garth), it strikes me that this club although from a relatively small area had a real vibrancy and sense of community with lots of innovative ideas.
The club formed a partnership in the early 90s with the local high school Haybridge High and presented gift vouchers and honorary membership to winning students for over fifteen years. They also supported Mary Stevens Hospice by having members offer art sessions to patients, this still exists today with Rosemary Milner attending regularly.
The highlight was and still is the Annual Exhibition which whilst having to compete with more and more commercial outlets for art is still an important opportunity for an amateur artist to display and sell their work.
Sallie Gurney HAC Website & News Editor
My thanks to Anne Garth (Honorary Secretary for 17 years) for all her help and access to her personal archive material.