THE FACES OF SHERBORNE
In our monthly series of “The Faces of Sherborne” we introduce you to the people behind the faces. This month (January 2012)
MEET JULIAN HALSBY, CHAIRMAN OF ARTSLINK
If you think that Artslink is for ‘Ladies who Paint’ then you definitely need to read this interview as the organisation has developed enormously over the past five years. As an artist in his own right, Julian understands the value of creative expression and feels this can play an important role in the community. His ambitions for Artslink were recognised last year by the Big Lottery when it awarded the organisation a five-year grant to develop a community arts programme. Julian is involved with the Historical Society and is a member of Rotary, he also lectures extensively and writes for The Artist magazine.
Read the full interview below:
Q: How long have you been living in Sherborne now?
JH: We came down in 2005. We had been looking for a house with a gallery and studio space as Miranda is a print-maker and I paint. We had run a gallery in London at one point and we felt we would like to run a part-time one here. When this property came up we were delighted as we already knew Sherborne and felt it suited our purposes beautifully.
Q: Did you plan to become as involved with the community as you are from the outset?
JH: Well it may not have been a conscious decision but I was quite happy to use my skills to contribute something where I could. Within a few months of arriving I had been approached regarding the role of Chairman at Artslink and given my background as a Senior Lecturer at Croydon Art College and my association with the Royal Society of British Artists I felt that I was in a good position to provide some guidance and direction.
Q: What would you say were the main priorities when you took over?
JH: Well Artslink was doing a good job providing a range of art classes but I felt it needed to broaden its scope both in providing a wider range of subjects but also in reaching out to the less advantaged parts of the community. We have now successfully developed the original art classes and now offer courses in art appreciation, foreign language conversation and a local film programme but I think the greatest move forward has been in our youth programme.
Q: You were awarded a grant in 2011 to help with that. What does this involve?
JH: Yes, we were fortunate to receive a grant from the Big Lottery for five years that allows us to hire a part-time employee to run a community arts programme for young people. Called TakePart, it concentrates on supporting existing partners in the town such as Rendezvous and the Tinney’s Youth Club. We have extended our Arts Buffet classes for children during holiday periods and we have established classes for people with social problems such as literacy classes. Often there is a need to strengthen people’s self-expression or their confidence and we have found that something as relatively simple as a book club, allowing people to discuss their views, helps them to gain confidence. Our tutors for these programmes have social welfare skills and encourage self-expression.
Q: Do you think Artslink can still achieve more?
JH: The main constraint is a lack of space and of course it does take a lot of time to set things up but in 2012 we will be running more events than at any previous time.
Q: Are you able to make use of your own considerable knowledge of art?
JH: Yes, lecturing is a big part of my activity and besides the courses I run for Artslink I also lecture all over the country for NADFAS. My speciality is art and design in Europe, especially from about 1850 to World War I, so Impressionism, Pre-Raphaelites, Symbolism and Art Nouveau. This year, working with The Eastbury Hotel in Sherborne, I have arranged for some of the Artslink tutors plus my own contacts to run a series of ‘Lunch & Learn’ lectures or workshops on various aspects of art.
Q: All of this cannot leave much time for other things.
JH: Well I do find time to write for The Artist magazine, interviewing contemporary artists about their work, and I have written a number of art books, most recently on Scottish art.
Q: Is there any time for things outside art?
JH: Most definitely. Through Rotary, I am organised in fund-raising events for charity, mostly through concerts. We have one coming up in Cheap Street Church on March 25th – an outstanding pianist called Sebastian Stanley – and we are also organising a concert by the Sherborne Chamber Choir for the Weldmar Trust in the Abbey on 13th October. Finally, I do enjoy my role as Deputy Chairman of the Historical Society where we have some very interesting and entertaining speakers.
Q: You’ve forgotten the requirement for having a gallery when you arrived…
JH: Well yes, we do still put on two or three exhibitions a year, one of which coincides with Dorset Art Weeks in May. There is never a dull moment in Sherborne!