Seaford Art Club celebrates 60th birthday

Berwick Walk by Jeremy Sales
Berwick Walk by Jeremy Sales

Seaford Art Club will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a special exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in Seaford from June 28 to July 3.

The group was founded in 1954 by Peggy Matheson and her father, together with their friends Betty Smith and Peggy Oaken, who have all since passed away.

The oldest surviving member is 90 year old Nina Matheson, who joined the club in the early 1960s.

Nina said: “When I joined, the club had 120 members - despite a strict joining criteria to ensure a high standard.

“At that time, each new applicant had to submit two framed or mounted paintings for consideration.

“These were appraised by four of the club’s more experienced artists and, depending on their opinion, applicants would be accepted or rejected.

“Although that sounds hard, the club existed to support people who could paint and not teach those who couldn’t.”

This year there will be paintings, gift cards for sale, a display of work inspired by Seaford artist Eric Slater and a free drawing activity.

Almost all of the members have had some kind of tuition before they joined. Some members have taught art professionally or retired from careers as illustrators, graphic artists or designers.

Today joining the group is far less formal than it was in the 1950s. In recent years a change of venue followed and economic conditions saw a dramatic reduction in membership.

But in the past few years, thanks to the chairmanship of Janice Dennington, treasurer Marion Freelove and committee members, the club is thriving with well attended weekly meetings at the Downs Leisure Centre.

Club chairman Jeremy Sales said: “The age range of our membership spans several decades and encompasses huge talent and experience.

“It’s not a competitive environment, but a high standard does encourage less experienced members to develop their skills while having fun. Yet, as art is the common interest, everyone gets on.

“While we don’t offer tuition, members inevitably swap new ideas and try new techniques.

“Moreover, a varied programme provides opportunities to draw or paint new subjects in many different styles.

“There are coffee mornings too, trips to outdoor locations (in summer) with day excursions to major galleries to spur inspiration and members’ partners are involved where possible.

“It’s a club, first and foremost, with art the common interest at its heart.”