The weather outside was rather unsettled, but it certainly felt like Spring as I entered the Worple Art Group Spring Exhibition on Saturday 11th May. By mid-morning, families, children and friends alike were gathered inside St Marks Church to admire and celebrate approximately 200 pieces of local art.
As I sat down to speak with Moira, daughter of the Founder of the Worple Art Group, and John Field, the Art Group’s long-standing Chairman from 1995 to 2015, we were surrounded by laughter, conversations and great creativity.
The formation of the Worple Art Group dates back to 1983 when Moira’s Father Charles retired from his job and found himself unsuccessful in joining local art groups in Wimbledon as they were already at capacity. Thankfully, he did not let these setbacks deter him from his goal of exhibiting his artwork and went on to create his very own art group with people that he knew locally. To this date, the group still borrows its name from local street Worple Road reflecting its roots and earliest foundations.
The main objective of this art group has always been for local painters to be able to exhibit their paintings, which has been accomplished throughout the years with bi-annual exhibitions. These always took place at local community spaces, starting with Wimbledon Library, and the local Red Cross building, before moving to their current residence St Mark’s Church in 1993. The Worple Art Group exhibitions are now very much settled at St Mark’s in Wimbledon which provides ample space thanks to its chapel and various side rooms which allow large amounts of people to attend the exhibition at the same time.
Although the venue has not changed for over 20 years and the event seems to remain on the Wimbledon Social Calendar, I was keen to find out whether an increase in the online market has affected this local community event. John pointed out that there were indeed a few changes such as the types of visitors that attend, a decrease in the number of attendees for the Friday-night rush, and eventually the introduction of a 2-day exhibition rather than 3. But despite these changes, people still come out in their numbers to attend the Worple Art Group Exhibitions. On average, they welcome over 500 visitors to their exhibitions which spread over one Friday and Saturday in Spring and Autumn.
If you are planning on attending one of these exhibitions in the future, it might be useful to know that it begins with a private viewing which is quite a social occasion, giving people a chance to get a first glance at the pieces and meet the artists. With this being a very inclusive event, invites to the preview are not too difficult to come by and can be obtained through one of the artists, or by leaving your details in the guestbook at an event.
Thankfully, you can rest assured knowing that this ease of access does not reflect the quality of art on display, nor the standards that artists within the group must adhere to. Although the Worple Art Group welcomes talented, local artists who may need encouragement and/or a place to exhibit their works alongside established artists, their other main requirement is variety. At the exhibitions, all artists are required to put in at least 10 pieces of their work, with at least 5 of these being new. This encourages artists to be committed to their work whilst always giving attendees fresh artwork to see.
With approximately 20 members in the art group as things stand, there are still 2 spaces available before they reach capacity at 22 members. If you are interested in joining the group, you can simply email them to express your interest. This will be followed by an observation in the place where you do your work, and then if all goes well an invitation to be a guest at one of their exhibitions. As you become more acquainted with the group and vice-versa, you may then be invited to become a full member.
Regarding the success of this most recent exhibition, the group have stated the following on their website; “Our Spring 2019 Exhibition was an outstanding success with 54 paintings sold. The standard was even better – if that is possible – and we had a record numbers of visitors. Thanks to all who came to visit and enjoy the exhibition, and to all those who bought paintings.”
Until the next exhibition on the 19th October 2019, keep up-to-date with the Worple Art Group on their website, and let us know what your favourite experiences were if you attended.
Written by Genevieve Etienne-Farrell