Art Week Exeter saw its first incarnation in 2016. It came about through a drive to make an event that highlighted and promoted the scope of visual arts activity in the city. To this end, it incorporated a number of organisations, institutions, smaller events and existing activities. One of these was Exeter Open Studios. For 2016 there was a specific coordinator for EOS (employed by AWE) as a part of the AWE steering group, alongside representatives from some of the other arts organisations. As a result of the feedback process following the event, there arose a question about the future of EOS: if AWE were to represent artists, support them to present their work and include their activities in the way that the EOS coordinator had previously, is it necessary to view EOS as a separate event?
This question was discussed at the EVAF 7 meeting in October. It was also the main topic under discussion at a meeting for all previous EOS artists, held last week. It is a very nuanced question, as EOS is an event with 10 years’ pedigree and all the knowledge and experience that brings, a large number of repeat visitors from around the region, and a reputation for bringing a welcome burst of colour to what has often been a drab time of year. However, beyond being an association for artists, all of its functions are now contained within Art Week. The individual artists and practitioners are very much the lifeblood and majority of contributors to AWE, so a way to ensure they are regarded equally within the event (as they were in 2016, with EOS being given the same weight and consideration as the other organisations/activities) is important.
The result of this conversation is that EOS will not continue for 2017. However, in order to maintain identity for artists within the way the brochure and related promotional activity is organised, a distinction will be made. Artists who are showing work in their own studios will be defined as Open Studio; work showing in other places will come under Exhibition. There will continue to be a distinct ‘brand’ for Open Studio activity, with the specific social media activity continuing to reach out to the existing audience, but with an aim to move into a closer relationship with the wider AWE event.
Hopefully, this decision will be welcomed by artists and audiences alike; it was not one taken lightly. We welcome any further input into how we shape and hold this aspect of the event.
Stuart – Creative Director, Art Week Exeter CIC