The Saltaire Arts Trail is going from strength to strength with visitor numbers increasing yearly. Jon Cronshaw spoke to its creative director.
Now in its seventh year, the Saltaire Arts Trail brings the village to life as thousands of people come to see craft fairs, art exhibitions and displays in open houses.
It grew out of September’s annual Saltaire Festival which brings together many different art forms including music, performance and food. Because so many of Saltaire Festival’s visitors were drawn specifically to the visual arts on display, a decision was made to launch the Saltaire Arts Trail. And in 2011 the trail broke off from the festival and moved to May.
Since its inception, the Arts Trail has been run by a dedicated team of volunteers, who have worked hard over the year to make the event on a par with the well-funded galleries and events around Yorkshire. What makes it stand out, however, is that it is run by the local community.
“It’s gone from strength to strength,” says creative director Amanda Chinneck. “We’ve had excellent visitor feedback. People are coming to the village specifically because they are fans of contemporary art and crafts, and enjoy having a look around people’s houses.”
Last year’s event saw a 20 per cent rise in attendees from the year before with an estimated 9,000 visitors. The residual effect on the local economy cannot be underestimated, with cafés, shops and restaurants all feeling the benefit. This year, further efforts have been made to incorporate these venues into the Arts Trail.
“We introduced a new strand to the programme last year which was a way to better involve businesses in the Arts Trail rather than them just being a service provider. So what I introduced was the schools Art Trail. We recruited eight schools from the Bradford district to respond to a brief – this year’s theme was ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ – and they interpret that visually in any way they want. Then we link each school with a café or shop, and they display the art works within their premises.”
One of the most popular parts of the Saltaire Arts Trail is the open houses, where 13 properties around the village are open to the public, each with individually curated exhibitions. “I think it’s a bit of cliché to say that people are intimidated by visiting art galleries,” says Amanda. “But people do like the fact that they are seeing an artwork in a more domestic environment.”
Yvonne Carmichael has opened up her house for the past five years and thinks that the Arts Trail is a fantastic opportunity to see some high quality displays.
“I organise a lot of exhibitions in unusual places like empty shop units,” she says. “But you can get an empty shop unit in Leeds for three days and not have anywhere near the number of people who come through on the Arts Trail. I love the fact that it’s a really mixed audience – you don’t just have gallery-goers. You get a lot of people who perhaps wouldn’t go to a gallery.” Yvonne will be exhibiting a series of short videos under the title Chore-orgraphy. “They’re videos of me thinking about actions you might do in the house. There’s one video where I’m doing Shake and Vac on the stairs, but you can’t tell quite what it is that you’re looking at to start with. They’re done very carefully, and it’s thinking about how we look at chores, and then how you might choreograph those chores.”
It is the sense of community that Yvonne enjoys the most. She said: “It’s the one time of the year where you get to meet the people who live locally and actually talk to them.”
Saltaire Art Trail, May 25-27, www.saltaireartstrail.co.uk
The trail goes interactive
For the first time Saltaire Arts Trail is going interactive with the release of a new app for smartphones funded by Arts Council England. More than just a brochure, the app utilises GPS technology to providean interactive guide to every location on the trail – responding to your to geographical position. There is information about all of the artists and makers involved with previews of their work. You can also use the app to compile your own list of favourite exhibits and attend online workshops. The app is available as a free download on iPhone from the App Store.