University and Pallant House Gallery link strengthened

Participating artists
Participating artists

Works In Partnership in the University of Chichester’s Otter Gallery is a new exhibition celebrating the strong ties between the university’s fine-art department and Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery (until June 10).

Artists from Pallant House Gallery’s community programme and Partners in Art scheme have worked with fine-art students to create new art work inspired by the Bishop Otter Trust Collection.

Emily Robson, community programme manager at Pallant House Gallery, said: “The project really came about because we realised Pallant House and the university had been working in collaboration for quite a long time, but the work has been quite hidden away. Nobody really knows about it.”

Fine-art students from the university are paired up with people in need of extra support when it comes to accessing their own creativity and their own enjoyment of art: “These might be someone with a disability or maybe a mental-health issue or maybe recovering from an illness, and they just need a little bit of extra help.

“The support is mostly in terms of volunteering, of just being around to just gently be on hand and to reassure and to encourage them in their art and that they are entitled to be here. You really see the benefits. At first some people can be really quite unsure and nervous, and then after a few months they are really confident. But actually there is quite a cross-over between the participants and the volunteers. There is a great community spirt. It becomes a proper partnership of equals. It is not about someone showing something else to someone. It is about two artists sharing a journey.

“We have been visiting the university as well as a group, which is a good way of getting people there who might not have the confidence to go by themselves. As a group, it is a good way in. We looked at the collection at the Otter Gallery and people made artworks inspired by what they saw.”

Each year as part of their second year of study, fine-art students at the University of Chichester are given the opportunity to work with an external organisation to test their art skills in new contexts and to gain experience of working with others.

The students who have entered into Partners in Art projects have benefitted from the experience. Students are often quite daunted by the prospect of collaborating in this way, but quickly come to understand how unique and embracing the community programme is and to relish their time there. Many students enjoy and value the experience so much that they continue working at the gallery or in their partnership after their project, some for many years.

As for matching up the partners: “We spend a lot of time meeting everybody and trying to get to know them. We try to match people who have got similar interests in art. We would try to put people together who have the same interest in abstract art or maybe people who both enjoy going to the harbour or just getting out. Or some people might prefer to be working with someone who is quite quiet. We try to work out what will work. It might be a really specific interest that they share. It is down to them how often they meet up. They can meet up whenever they want to.”

In all, there are 35 pairs in the Partners in Art programme. Each year the programme takes on four students, some of whom remain in the scheme. There are now about ten partnerships including a past or present student.

For other stories by Phil, see : https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2

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