Support local artists


With exhibitions cancelled and galleries closed as a result of Covid-19, many visual artists have been experiencing a worrying time during the pandemic. Although some may have found painting and creativity their salvation during lockdown, others are struggling to deal with the uncertainty.

Turner prize winning sculptor Dame Rachel Whiteread says “…it’s difficult to know what to work for because everything has closed down and you’re not quite sure what’s happening with shows and galleries and anything that is happening in the future”.

She adds : “All of the things that make us human have been taken away from us, things like choice and decision … it takes its toll”.

Finding new ways to show art

During lockdown the consumer appetite for art is strong and according to an article in the New Statesman, “How coronavirus is making virtual galleries go viral”, The Courtauld Gallery’s virtual tour received 723% more visitors in one March week compared to the week before.

There is a bigger challenge for the local, smaller galleries, but changes are taking place. the Rye Art Gallery is hoping to open its doors again in July, but meanwhile is using social media to post updates as is the Rye Society of Artists who had to cancel their summer show.

The Rye Creative Centre has cancelled events but has an online exhibition currently running, and artist Nick Archer is offering art classes via Zoom. The Red Door Gallery in Rye is announcing exhibitions from July and we look forward to all other art and photographic galleries in Rye opening before too long.

Hastings Contemporary is offering virtual robot tours and exhibitions which they say will enable them “to continue to support families, children and older visitors alike, offering opportunities to enter the gallery space from the comfort of a sofa, bed or kitchen table”.

Calling all local artists

Rye News is going to be supporting local artists online by introducing a new, regular ‘Featured Artist’ slot on our Culture page. This week we are featuring renowned plein air artist Karl Terry.

He says “lockdown has resulted in almost everything being cancelled or postponed. I was actually supposed to be having a shared show this month at the Rye Art Gallery with my great local painting friend, Tom Marsh. We have both been working hard since last autumn to produce a large volume of new work for it. 50 paintings each. I think that is still likely to go ahead, but maybe much later in the year”.

Grasp the moment to encourage arts tourism

No-one can predict how Covid-19 will affect tourism, but Visit England’s forecasts are summarised as follows: “…we assume a period in June-August when the tourism sector starts to open although social distancing remains in place and tourism spend remains well below baseline (pre-Covid) levels.

“Finally, we assume a bounceback period in the last four months of the year when many categories of leisure tourism benefit from pent-up demand. Each of these phases will affect different components of domestic tourism and categories of tourism spending differently.”

Lord Michael Heseltine has been encouraging communities to use this time to come together and look at local opportunities. He says “One of the most moving consequences of the coronavirus menace has been the recognition of a wider community spirit. The government should harness this in its policies to rebuild our economy.”

Is this then a good time for collaborative thinking on how arts tourism in Rye can develop and benefit from a possible “bounceback”?  Rye galleries joined together to launch the Rye Art Trail, but should other partners in Rye be joining in and supporting them more?

The south coast has always been a draw for artists and, with a likely growth in domestic holidays and a demand for new experiences, Rye is the perfect base to stay and enjoy a creative trail as well as arts and music festivals, cinema and of course the inspiring landscapes including Dungeness with Derek Jarman’s cottage preserved after a £3.5 million campaign.

Bridge Point Creative Centre, which recently received planning approval, will add enormously to the creative arts in Rye. Visitors who use Rye as their base can enjoy the art and culture in Rye and then easily get the train, or drive along the coast to Hastings Contemporary, De la Warr in Bexhill, Towner in Eastbourne (which has just opened it’s doors again) or further afield to the Charleston gallery, one time home of the Bloomsbury set.

St Leonards too is now a creative hub, particularly since Banksy is said to have celebrated his 40th birthday in the town and left his mark. For those willing to travel a little further down the coast, they can also take in the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate.

According to Visit England’s Annual Attractions survey last August,  “museums and art galleries saw the most significant growth in visitor numbers”. Bernard Donoghue, the director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), said last year “Our assumption is that the biggest growth here has been in us Brits going to more museums, galleries and visitor attractions across the UK”.

Promoting the arts in Rye

But where does Rye promote these cultural gems ? With lack of finance for tourist offices, uncertainty over the wedding market, and holiday habits changing, this could be a real opportunity for all those involved in the creative sector, business and tourism to work collaboratively to package and promote new visitor experiences.  Let’s hear your views.

If you’d like to be showcased on our featured artist slot, please email us on

Image Credits: Karl Terry .


  1. How about linking up with the Rye Heritage Centre – now run by a charity and hoping to re-launch – well soon! Not sure what their plans are but sure I could find out.


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