On then to Interval Café, where artist Paula Tod was showing Scottish landscape-inspired paintings. While on these walks it is important to keeps your wits about you amidst so much complimentary wine, Interval wins in my book for most unusual refreshments with their free haggis.
The Wakefield Art Gallery is the most traditional of the Art Walk’s venues, and the only one to provide a live string quartet in addition to the art itself. The gallery houses an excellent collection of Moores and Hepworths, and were offering visitors an opportunity to explore the forms with coloured torches. It did make for an interesting way to approach the sculptures, though the pieces in the gallery room were somewhat crowded. The effect was better realized in the sculpture garden at the back, where a tent had been erected around a Hepworth piece, to minimise outdoor light spoiling the effect. Being a city art gallery, there is a tendency towards the National Trust effect: unnecessary cluttering up of free space with additional information, and primary coloured activities for children. That said, this was the one venue where I did see families getting involved together, which was great, but it seemed a shame that there was no other noticeable effort to encourage them elsewhere on the walk, it being a great way for parents to introduce their children to art in the city in an uncomplicated and fun way.
The Coach House Gallery is an excellent example of a well planned gallery/studio space. Though the gallery is small, a lot had been fitted in without making it feel overstuffed or claustrophobic. Downstairs was given over to the first full exhibition of Charlie Morris, whose paintings suggest influences of Hopper. Upstairs was a lovely, dance inspired triptych by Kate Marr, who may be somebody to watch out for.
Westgate Open Studios are, we knew from experience, an evening in themselves, so we saved them until last to give ourselves time to explore them at a nice lazy pace. By this point in the night, many of the artists were beginning to head longingly for the pub, but we were still able to catch up with a few. My favourite studio this time around was John Harrison’s (lack of) space, stuffed to the gills with constructivist sculptures and assemblages. Westgate Studios provide large spaces for artists, both private and shared. While working your way up the narrow winding staircase to the top floors can be hard going after a long walk round the city, the art works adorning the stairwell make it worth it.
While the Wakefield Art Walk takes a break to evaluate and plan for the future, I am glad that it seems set to continue a regular feature of the city’s art scene. It can be a lot of walking for one evening, and there are problems; some venues such as the Wall Gallery are rather far out which may put some people off, and temporary exhibitions may find it difficult to get publicised if they are not on the map (such as the photography show at Art of Oak this time around). It is, however, a great way to really get to know what goes on in Wakefield, and meet the people behind everything. Look out for the next one, wear some sturdy shoes, and be prepared to meet some strange and wonderful people.