For James Stewart, who ran the trail for a few years and remains a key part in it all, there is also a third anniversary to celebrate – 15 years of his own Zimmer Stewart Gallery. It’s a year of landmarks all round, with a particularly-special gallery trail lined up, under the motto “Home is where the Art is”.
“I think what makes the trail so special is the family atmosphere, both from participants and also from the people that come back year after year,” says James. “It really creates a familial feeling, and what that does is give support to the artists. Quite often you go to galleries and it can feel a little bit cold if you don’t know the artists and their work, but when you do get to know them, then I think people are a lot more receptive to the new ideas that the artists bring along. It is about a relationship with the artists, and that is what you get with the trail.
The Arundel Gallery Trail started in 1989, ten years after the first Arundel Festival, which had no visual arts element. Ann Sutton had the original idea and within hours had the support of Oliver Hawkins, Renee Bodimeade and Derek Davis. The four founders were local, but established artists or art teachers – and significantly children of three of them have gone on to be involved in the gallery trail in turn.
“I think each year it is the content that makes the gallery trail special. I don’t think the format has changed very much really. The original concept was a circuit taking in Tarrant Street, Maltravers Street and the High Street, a walking circuit really. It has grown now to include the whole town beyond, and we have got artists further afield, but in essence the whole thing hasn’t changed in format. It is the content that changes each year.
“I have only been around for 15 years, and in the 15 years I have been around, I don’t think the trail has changed that much, but each year it always excites me with the different content. I always know that I am going to see some wonderful works of art. They are not going to be wonderful in everyone’s eyes, but if you go into the gallery trail in a glass-half-full kind of way, an open-minded kind of way, you are always going to find things that you really like.
“We get about a third of the trail artists that are regulars who do it pretty much every year or every couple of years, and then there is a third of the artists who are completely new, and then the next third are people that have done it before and had a gap and have come back. It is a really good mix because you have got the people who you know and like and also some fresh and new people and also some people that you might possibly have seen before.” The trail runs Saturday, August 18 to Bank Holiday Monday, August 27 in 65 locations.