Secret Swans Success Story

July 19, 2016 - Martin

black_swan_30_logo tinyThe Black Swan Arts Centre has been marking its 30th anniversary with several special exhibitions and events, which have so far been a resounding success, with great feedback and overwhelming support from the public, much needed funds raised, heightened profile and have really engaged the community.

The latest special event was the Secret Swans Art Trail, part of Frome Festival and Open Studios. The Trail comprised 30 swan-themed artworks in 30 venues around Frome and last week it was in full swing. The public were invited to make secret auction bids for artworks at each venue. Artworks ranged from tiny treasures such as Christina Oswin’s silver swan box, (her winning bid is being donated to Black Swan), internationally acclaimed Tessa Farmer’s ‘Flotilla’ – extraordinary skeletal fairies riding on swan feathers, located in Frome Museum, to drawings including Chris Lee’s depiction of Black Swan’s historic buildings, prints, lightwork, textiles and large sculptures such as Edgar Phillips’ magnificent steel and glass wings displayed at Rook Lane Chapel.

Bloggers Somerset Cool wrote: “The thing we really love about Black Swan Arts is their creative approach. It’s 30 years this year since the former derelict inn was turned in to a beacon for the arts – and to celebrate the anniversary, they’ve been doing some very cool stuff…  We grabbed our trail map, our smiley puppy Petal and attempted to find and identify all 30 (Secret Swans artworks)!   It was brilliant fun and the mix of artwork on display was stunning. The trail ran for 10 days in all, to coincide with the Frome Festival, and it was another great way to engage artists, art lovers, families, adventurers and the local community – with everyone following the trail to seek out and discover new and exciting art around Frome. Artists included sculptor Edgar Phillips (showing the beautiful steel and glass wings piece), multi-award-winner Alicia Merrett, Ian Marlow MRBS, who created the popular Bishops Palace Swan ‘Guinevere’, printmaker Bronwen Bradshaw of Dove Studios ‘Amazing Space’, mosaic artist Kate Rattray and sculptor Fiona Campbell, who collaborated with pupils from All Hallows school to produce a group wire piece, as well as ‘Resurrection’ which could be seen on the riverbank next to Frome Canoe club. The event also inspired some of the artists to try something a little different! Photographic artist Christina White, who normally uses large format camera to take pictures of industrial ruins, used squeezed cling film and bubble wrap for one of the layers on her piece! Jewellers Linda Sandeman and Yasemin Sweet, who share a studio but had never collaborated prior to the art trail, created a beautiful swan brooch together.”

Black Swan Trustee and Secret Swans artist Fiona Campbell says “My outdoor piece, ‘Resurrection’ was created from reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim. ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. The piece is about environmental pollution, hope, yearning for purity, freedom from constraints. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix form.  Sited by the river, it received many positive comments from all ages, only slight damage – easily rectified, so

I am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect!  In addition I worked on the All Hallows Prep School piece.  I teach extra-curricular art at All Hallows and as I’ve been

involved in Secret Swans, I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail.  We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan’s historic Round Tower.  Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder’s exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her ‘scribbly’ technique to add more black areas.  It was an effective solution given time constraints.  The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities.  Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.”

Visitors of all ages had fun discovering the art. Gail Norris says: “I’ve really enjoyed looking for the swans”; “It was a nice addition to the Frome Festival this year” Secret Swans artist Ian Marlow MRBS; “I enjoyed building a bit of a relationship with the lovely Hunting Raven and looking at their books!” Secret Swans artist Bronwen Bradshaw.

“It was inspiring to see how wonderfully varied the 30 different responses to the swan theme were and it was particularly exciting to hear from several artists how the challenge had encouraged them to do something quite different from their normal work. The quality of the art was superb and everyone I talked to about the trail thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Organiser Nick Weaver says.

Black Swan is extremely grateful to Nick Weaver and the other volunteers, who worked hard on Secret Swans and made it such a success” Amanda Sheridan (Chair of Black Swan Arts Trustees).

Badges were awarded to everyone who identified all 30 artworks (remaining badges are now available for £1 donation to Black Swan). Some visitors entered the Secret Swans prize draw (prizes kindly donated by Studio Prints, Sue Ayton, Lizbeth Spurgeon and Fiona Campbell) The winners of the draw are: 1) Jason Nosworthy (Westbury-sub-Mendip); 2) Teresa Cotterell (Frome); 3) Charlotte Thorne (Frome) who have each won an art-related prize.

Artists and venues were listed separately in Trail maps – the challenge being to match the two. Venues included Black Swan Arts, Frome library, Elizabeth Lee Interiors (who bought Angela Morley’s Secret Swans artwork ‘Nest’) the riverbank by Cheese and Grain and Frome Museum.

Other events to celebrate Black Swan’s 30th anniversary include 1000 Postcards, a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore.  Unsold postcards can still be bought online. Coming later in November will be ‘30 Plinths’, featuring 30 artworks by artists who have previously held an artisan studio at Black Swan.

All these Black Swan events are great examples of a massive team effort by Black Swan volunteers. For further information about all events visit:

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