The boss of a major aquarium has swapped fish tanks for fine art in Windermere due to COVID-19.
Matthew Titherington, who was general manager of Sea Life in Blackpool, decided to change his life and rekindle his first love of art.
The aquarium was closed for over a year due to the pandemic so Matthew and his wife Dawn decided to do something different – and have taken over Windermere Fine Art Gallery
He said: “Lockdown gave us all a chance to reflect, learn new skills and revisit hobbies. I decided it was time to follow my passion for art combined with my love of the Lake District. I saw lots of people re-engaging with their hobbies, dreams and creativity.”
Taking over from retiring owner Bill Dines, who ran the well-known gallery for 16 years, the couple have refurbished the established gallery and also opened a new second exhibition gallery on Beech Street.
It is showcasing the best of British contemporary artists, including those normally represented by London galleries, such as Haidee Jo Summers, Rob Poynton, Andrew Farmer, Michael Ashcroft, Steven Smith, Adam Ralston and Norman Long.
They include members of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.
“The two galleries will allow us to show beautiful original art from varied artists, but also to work with local people and schools to encourage them to get out and have go and meet the artists through talks and demonstrations,” Matthew added.
The revamped gallery is now reopening following the latest easing of restrictions and Matthew has used the time as an opportunity to arrange a new exhibition, featuring much of these artists’ latest original work, created during the pandemic.
Matthew’s love of art and inspiration for the life swap stemmed from his father, an established artist from Liverpool, who worked at Edge Hill University as head of art and design.
He has worked in the leisure industry for 30 years, many spent running busy attractions on Blackpool’s Golden Mile, for leading companies including First Leisure plc, Trevor Hemmings’ Leisure Parks and, in most recent years, Merlin Entertainments, the world’s second largest leisure corporation.
“It was the right time to make the change,” he said.
“Windermere is the gateway to the Lake District, one of the natural wonders of the world. It has inspired poets and writers, such as Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, along with musicians and artists for generations.
“We don’t want to compete with the other galleries locally, we want to complement them by bringing something different and making Windermere once again a ‘go-to’ destination for art lovers and collectors.”
Matthew used his links to northern artists he knows, inviting the distinguished group of artists, known as the Northern Boys, to exhibit their latest work.
“Steve Smith, one of the Northern Boys, has done an amazing job of attracting some of the most talented artists in the north to exhibit many of their new original works, created this year and inspired by the pandemic, in our gallery.
“By inviting Haidee-Jo Summer and the Northern Boys to create our opening show, we hope that people living locally and visiting Windermere will not only enjoy seeing their work on display in the gallery, but may also see them painting around the Lake District as they are united in their love for painting outdoors ‘plein air’.
“We plan to put on regular exhibitions, bringing a variety of artists to the Lake District and showcasing the very best of British contemporary art.”