Artwork by Helen O'Leary
Artwork by Helen O’Leary

All artists – no matter the variety, musician, actor or visual artist – need that one important break that gives them the opportunity to show what they are made of. Together with my fellow members of Hastings Arts Forum exhibitions committee, I have just spent the last couple of weeks selecting work submitted by artists who have never exhibited professionally before, for our Rising Talent show.  I am invested in finding ways to open doors for young and emerging artists and have become increasingly aware of the barriers that may prevent people putting themselves forward.  Money is obviously a big one – and Rising Talent offers the opportunity to exhibit at no charge to the artist. However, through listening to what makes artists looking for recognition hang back, I am aware that ‘artistic pedigree’, or perceived lack of, can also dissuade highly talented individuals from seeking the limelight.  We therefore made it clear that we only wanted to see the work – and that it was the work alone that was up for selection.  We didn’t ask where applicants studied – or didn’t study, or what kind of degree they did or didn’t have.  It was all about the work – and the potential represented by the work.

We’ve been well rewarded, and have been overwhelmed by the quality of the submissions.  We’ve heard from a lot of artists working in a wide range of media and it has been a hard job to whittle it down to the small number of artists whose work will form the exhibition opening at the gallery on Tuesday 25th July.

And, it is not only me that is focused on helping talented artists grow and flourish.  Our newly appointed patron, Antony Penrose, co-director of the Lee Miller Archive and The Penrose Collection, has chosen the Rising Talent open evening on Friday 28th July to introduce himself, as this event resonates with his personal aims and interests – and Valerie Grove, local artist, writer and blogger, is interviewing each of the artists selected for the show.

My ambition is that Rising Talent goes from strength to strength, that we will provide that all-important starting block and that we become the place for artists with something important to say, or who want to test the water and see what it feels like to set up their stand in a public arena.

Do come and see the exhibition, join us for a glass of wine, meet the artists and our new patron at the open evening and get in touch if you have an interest in supporting this initiative in the future, whether as an applicant or as a sponsor. The Arts Forum feels that Rising Talent embodies the spirit of Hastings/St Leonards as a haven and supportive environment for artists. We would like it to become something for us all to be proud of.

Sally Meakins is curator and chair of the exhibitions committee at Hastings Arts Forum and a practicing artist.

The Rising Talent exhibition will be held at Hastings Arts Forum, 36 Marina, St Leonards-on-Sea, from Tuesday 25th July – Sunday 6th August

For further information visit Hastings Arts Forum website: http://www.hastingsartsforum.co.uk/rising-talent-young-and-emerging-artists/

Valerie Grove’s blog page: https://naturestrikesback.blogspot.co.uk/