The journey to transform Bridge House in Trowbridge to become Drawing Projects UK began almost four years ago. Three years on, and Drawing Projects UK is evolving into the hub we envisaged – a place for making, seeing, and discussing, drawing and contemporary art – creating a community through drawing and providing a welcoming space for all to meet.
Our ten studios and workspaces are now fully occupied; the Project Space has regular Drawing Sessions and Drawing Discussions; and our meeting rooms are used by numerous community groups. The Trowbridge Poetry Society Stanza group meet on the first Saturday afternoon of every month and bring an audience from across the South West for workshops, open-mics and to hear guest poets read.
The Girl Friday Breakfast Club was launched during the centenary celebrations of women’s suffrage, and meets on the last Friday of every month and we are fortunate to attract an array of inspiring speakers such as Helen Legg (Spike Island/Tate Liverpool), Alice Workman (Hauser & Wirth Somerset), Irma Eloff (University of Pretoria), Elissa Auther (Bard Graduate Center/Museum of Arts & Design, NYC). Our well-attended Drawing Discussions with national audiences have included Michael Sandle RA, Nigel Hall RA, Sarah Simblet, Deanna Petherbridge, Emma Hill, and Gabriel Gbadomosi. We have worked in partnership with Trowbridge Museum and Town Hall Arts to establish Explore Art in Trowbridge (EAT), now delivering 3-4 events per year, including Heritage Open Day.
While our audience is largely events driven, our gallery programme has built an international profile; solo exhibitions have included Wendy Sharpe, Andrew Grant, Eleanor Bartlett, Elisa Alaluusua, Gerry Davies, Michael Pennie, Mike Collier. From the Ground: Mandy Bonnell & James Brooks, and Greyscale, an exhibition by five Australian artists, Peter Burgess, Julia Davis, Adrian Gebers, Pollyxenia Joannou & Lisa Jones complemented thematic exhibitions curated by Gary Sangster and myself. The Open to Draw scheme has enabled the exploration of the role of drawing through short artist-led projects, and a number of longer residencies by Sophie Cape, Sandra Porter, Anna Gillespie, Carole Pearson, and Mairead McClean.
Drawing Projects UK was originally established (in 2009) to deliver the Jerwood Drawing Prize project, and last year we presented the very last showing of Jerwood Drawing Prize here. We are, therefore, thrilled to be presenting the next iteration of the foremost annual open exhibition in the UK, the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2018 from 2 March to 26 April 2019. With 69 drawings by 67 artists and makers, selected by Nigel Hall RA, Megan Piper, and Dr Chris Stephen, it is a substantial exhibition of contemporary drawing. This will be the principal tour venue in the South West and, as we anticipate large audiences, we hope to achieve additional funding support for our public engagement programme as well as using funds generously raised by Messums’ Wiltshire for our drawing sessions. And, we are delighted that we now have Miranda’s coffee shop on site to provide refreshments for our many guests, and the wider public.
Our forthcoming programme includes In Between Sea and Shore, Bath Spa University in Porthleven; a solo show by George Meyrick; and Drawing Out the Canal by Simon Woolham, who will walk the Kennet and Avon Canal from Reading to Bristol as part of his drawing project in August, raising funds for The Pituitary Foundation as he goes.
We have been incredibly lucky to receive in-kind and financial support for Drawing Projects UK – from individuals, and from private, commercial, philanthropic and public funders. Without this support, engagement, and generosity, of so many people as participants, helpers, volunteers and champions, and those who have brought their own creative ingenuity, networks and funding, we could not have achieved so much. We still have much to do, and we look forward to ensuring that Drawing Projects UK is a sustainable and compelling creative hub in the county town of Wiltshire, now and into the future.
Professor Anita Taylor, Founder of Drawing Projects UK
Editor’s note: Take a look back at Anita’s guest blog almost three years ago in which she talked about establishing the centre for drawing and contemporary art at Bridge House in Trowbridge