Rheged’s Gallery, near Penrith, will host the Lake Artists Society’s annual exhibition from Saturday September 18.
A joyful celebration of art and creativity, the exhibition features 260 works by artists from across Cumbria, all of which are being exhibited for the first time.
For almost all of its 117-year history the Lake Artists Society has held its flagship annual summer exhibition at Grasmere Village Hall.
But having cancelled the event in 2020 due to the pandemic, the society was faced with the possibility that the 2021 exhibition would also have to be cancelled after Grasmere Village Hall became a COVID-19 vaccination centre.
Now, with Rheged’s state-of-the-art purpose-built gallery space at its disposal, the society has brought together new works from its 45 members and carefully selected non-members, all of whom live and work in Cumbria.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to get back on track,” said artist Kevin Chester, president of the Lake Artists Society.
“In times of crisis, the arts so often get sidelined. But art gives pleasure; it gives nourishment; it gives strength. When people’s minds are worried, art can be a ray of sunshine that draws you back to a different level of consciousness.”
The Lake Artists Society was founded in 1904 by the artist and author WG Collingwood, who recognised that the boom in Lake District tourism at the turn of the century presented opportunities for local artists to show and sell their work.
Counting William Heaton Cooper among its past presidents, the society is renowned for the sheer quality and variety of fine art that its membership brings together within a single county.
Such has been the popularity of its summer exhibition over the years, with up to 10,000 people each year travelling in coachloads to Grasmere to visit it, that in 1996 a friends’ society was formed to provide members with special access to exhibitions and artists.
This year being the 25th anniversary of Friends of the Lake Artists Society (FOLAS), it is particularly fitting that the annual exhibition is being held at Rheged.
John and Barbara Dunning, Rheged’s founders, have been members of FOLAS since its inception and have been attending the summer exhibition previews for 50 years.
The society will present a series of awards at the beginning of the Summer Exhibition to encourage and reward excellence and innovation.
The awards are sponsored by local businesses and organisations including Youdells of Kendal, Kent Valley Colour Printers, Peter Tyson, Friends of the Lake District, Lakeland Mouldings and The Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere.
Visitors to the exhibition will also have a chance to vote for the People’s Choice award, which is sponsored by The Northern Lights Gallery in Keswick and will be announced in November.
Every artwork in the exhibition will be for sale, a welcome boost to the artists after nearly two years during which opportunities to show and sell art have been severely limited.
“We are really looking forward to showcasing the depth and breadth of work produced by this esteemed group of Cumbrian artists working across many different styles and disciplines,” said Claire Logan-Stephens, Rheged’s programming and partnership manager.
“When so many events on the Cumbrian arts calendar have been cancelled due to the pandemic, it will be a pleasure to join in the excitement of the society’s members and friends as they share new work with one another and with visitors to this long-awaited exhibition.”