Over twenty local artists responded to a challenge by local author Matt Wingett to make new work inspired by his novel The Snow Witch novel in some form or other.
Funded by Arts Council England and generously supported by Cascades Shopping Centre the exhibition presented a range of work in a number of mediums. It was open daily for three weeks and saw over 1500 people visit the gallery during this time.
Curator Lucille Scott, Blacksmith and owner of Little Duck Forge explained that the idea came up in conversation with Matt over a year before in 2018. Originally the exhibition was to be a collaboration between Lucille and Matt, the wordsmith versus the blacksmith. Over the following year, the idea grew into a scheme for the exhibition which opened October 21st 2020.
The exhibition opening night was attended by 200 people and included, refreshments, live music, spoken word performance and immersive theatre with an introduction by author Matt Wingett.
Work by local artists included: Kelly Jane Hickman, Pam Hill , Moby Illustration, Angela Lee, Sue Meredith, Peter Missen, Elisa Mott, James Mouland, Jo Oliver, John Pearson, Freya Perry, Eileen Phyall, Donna Poingdestra, Ric Robinson, Lucille Scott , Fiona Simpson, Irene Strange, Carrie Swinburne, Kerry Thompson, Ausra Vaisvilaite, James Waterfield, Diana Wren, Roo Abrook.
Characters from The Snow Witch novel were brought to life by actors playing the role of shape-shifting trickster Reynold Lissitch and the protagonist of the story Donitza Kravitch. The characters came together as part of another transmedia story being told at the time which was also inspired by The Snow Witch novel, Cursed City – Dark Tide.
The evening began with actress Hana Maria taking on the role of Donitza and busking outside Cascades as the audience began to arrive before later joining the audience in the exhibition.
As part of the Cursed City – Dark Tide transmedia story local street artist Roo Abrook had been commissioned to make four pieces of work based on the elements, earth, air, fire and water. The pictures included further clues in the form of a puzzle that audience members could decode as part of the story narrative. These images were included within the exhibition.
Feedback from those who attended the exhibition was extremely generous and people loved the diversity of work as well as the opportunity to see art in such an unusual setting.
The exhibition was outstanding, magical pieces of art from the Snow Witch book by Matt Wingett created by people of Portsmouth and Hampshire.Exhibition Atendee
An outstanding, enchanted and bewitching exhibition, I admired the magical experience of songs, poems, music, magical pictures, bewitching statues, photographs and musical instruments.Exhibition Atendee
The opening night of the exhibition was live-streamed by students from Solent University as part of the launch for Portsmouth Darkfest 2019.
Half Term Kids & Family Art Workshops
During the half-term break, people were invited to come along to Cascades shopping centre to see the exhibition and get creative by taking part in a series of free drop-in workshops – suitable for all ages and abilities.
Tuesday 29th October, 11.00-15.00
Tina Sanchez taught children how to cast a creative spell on a special stone with gooey paints, enchanting markers and magical dust. Twenty-one participants enjoyed the experience of creating artwork on pebbles using a mixture of media acrylic paints, pen chalk and paint, bio glitter and PVA glue.
Wednesday 30th October, 11.00-15.00
James Waterfield enchanted children by teaching them how to craft their own magic wand, rod or staff, how to create rune stones to tell the future and how to brew their own magic potions. Over 50 local families and children attend and make arts and crafts with me on the theme of the Witchcraft in the stories.
Thursday 31st October, 11.00-15.00
Gavin Hodson made a large collaborative drawing and collage which was then be shown in the main exhibition for all to share and enjoy. There was continuous participation from children from ages of 2 years old upwards. In total 19 children and 14 adults all got involved.
Friday 1 November, 11.00-15.00
Artist Bethia Bridges ran a magical workshop which encouraged children to have a go at wand making, snowflake decorations and take part in a ‘design a Snow Witch’ competition!
Overall the exhibition was deemed to be a huge success and drew an audience into the gallery who may not have had such an encounter before. Andrew Phillips (Centre Manager, Cascades Shopping Centre) had this to say about the exhibition:
The Snow Witch Exhibition re-introduced the Cascades to parts of the local population who had perhaps forgotten the part it plays within the community. The launch event itself bought 200 people to site and allowed us to showcase just how we wish to interact with our local community, and the ongoing exhibition provided a point of interest and possibly some short-term relief from the hustle and bustle of the Highstreet. The exhibition also gave us a new and quirky element to place across our social media streams which reached a total of 25,500 people – far in excess of the interaction rates we expect to see from normal posts about sales or new fashion lines. The local press also ran with the story and covered the event 6 times in total with a combined reach of over 1 million, all of which contributed to increased footfall into the centre for the months of October and November of 2.5% versus the same period in 2018. In the period since the exhibition I have been contacted by several parties who wish to collaborate on community projects similar to this in the future, opening up a world of possibilities for the centre.Andrew Phillips (Centre Manager, Cascades Shopping Centre)
The exhibition ran from October 21st until November 10th, 2019 in: Unit 22, Cascades Shopping Centre, Commercial Road, Portsmouth, PO1 4RL.
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