Over the past 18 months, Hastings Museum has undergone something of a transformation: first with the appointment of a new manager, Damien Etherington, and then a new team of curators. This all came with a fresh vision for the museum with more emphasis on the community.

Although lockdown interrupted the plans, they quickly switched to an online museum and with funding from the Chalk Cliff Trust, did a call out to local creatives for ideas to involve the community with online projects. One of the first ideas chosen was by artists Kate Hulme and Carissa Taunton: in the form of a Hastings Digital Quilt.

It all started when Kate was producing cross stitch grids with her six-year-old son during lockdown. This inspired her to imagine a project with lots of people contributing to a single art piece in whatever way they chose, using whatever skill level they had. “The more I thought about it the more it seemed to represent a sense of community, where our unique strengths and weaknesses come together to create something bigger than we are.” 

After a few weeks of planning, the project was launched in mid-May and, only two months after submitting the idea, the vision has become an amazing reality.

The digital quilt is based on Edward Badham’s painting of Hastings, Corner House and the Blue Saloon, painted sometime between 1922 and 1935, chosen for its representation of everyday life and community, two things the team felt were particularly precious at this moment. 

The painting was divided into 192 squares and these were sent out to anyone who was interested. There was an enthusiastic response which resulted in around 150 participants, some doing more than one piece. All sorts of different people were involved from ordinary families – bored, lonely or just looking for something to do – to professional artists, ceramicists, jewellers and craftspeople. 

Lisa Finch, Collections and Engagement (Art), commented: “The interesting thing is that everyone has a different perspective which demonstrates a different perception of community and of life. Each one is unique. Even pieces that have been done in a similar way are very different from each other.”

Lisa says that they have just shared a call out for a second wave of proposals to continue the Hasting Digital Museum while they are closed. The museum has also been creating their own content for adults, families and children with themes like Lego Live, How to do Natural Dying, events showcasing items in their collection and lots more. 

The museum is planning to reopen in late summer. Lisa can then get back to selecting and planning the Hastings Open exhibition with new work that was submitted by artists for display just before lockdown.

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