Harris Museum’s annual exhibition returns again.

An image of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston

The Harris Museum gets ready to embrace local artistic talent once again at the annual Harris Open Exhibition.

Located in the heart of Preston town centre, The Harris Museum and Art Gallery is an exceptionally busy place with several exhibitions, displays and activities that regularly occur throughout the year. There are specific events for everyone including ‘Art Explorer‘ for children, workshops for the young, and tours and talks for adults.

The museum has reached its peak time of the year where it is bustling with visitors from all over Lancashire that have a keen interest in art. The current Masterstrokes gallery has taken a successful turn in engaging a large audience as it exhibits exclusive paintings from the York Art Gallery, including works by known artists LS Lowry and David Hockey. With Christmas now approaching, the time has come for the annual Harris Open exhibition to resurface, allowing numerous local artists of all ages to showcase their talent in the form of paintings, photographs and sculptures.

This is an original image taken from the very top floor at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery

The exhibition will open up to the public from mid-December on Saturday 14 December till the 25 January 2014, to publicise the artistic abilities of Preston-based artists. The one month period over Christmas gives professional and amateur artists the chance to showcase their work in the hope of selling the art during this seasonal holiday. Entree is free with the  exhibition open to all ages and each person is allowed to enter one or two works. The Harris Open displays a wide range of artwork from artists within North-West, showcasing their paintings, sculptures and ceramics. The paintings tend to consist of common themes such as animals, famous people and local landmarks such as the Preston bus station and the Guild celebrations.

In a recent interview with Clarissa, the Exhibitions Officer at the HarrisMuseum and ArtGallery, she was happy to share further details on the upcoming event. She informed about how there will be a little twist for the 2013 annual exhibition, “This year we have a special judge, Wayne Hemmingway, who will be selecting a winner in January. One of the prizes will be chosen by him, the 2nd by our sponsor Granthams art shop and Harris staff. The 3rd will be a People’s Prize, which will be selected by visitor who can vote.” Wayne Hemmingway is an English fashion designer and co-founder of Red or Dead, a fashion company that manufactures products including shoes, bags and watches. These prizes will be announced on Wednesday 22 January 2014 at 6.30om.

The Exhibitions Officer at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, also added, “There are some fantastic artists based here, of high-quality, as some exhibit in other places too. I think Uclan has a good arts course, so good quality artists are being produced in Preston through that course. There are lots of opportunities in Preston for artists and lots of opportunities for artists to create their own opportunities.”

A special preview night will be held on Friday 13th of December after the final submission date on the 7th of December, where annually, there are a lot of submissions, usually between 300-400. This year, work from community art groups such as Young Harris, Sahara and Free Your Mind will be highlighted who have closely worked with Harris. Clarissa added to this, she said, “The Harris Open is being curated by two groups of young people called Blaze and Young Harris so it will be a fast paced few days installing the work. I am most excited about seeing what the really young children submit.”

Blaze is a group which is based at the Harris Library in Preston, and it aims to create new generations of artists. It supports young people by helping them take on new opportunities and challenges, bringing people together from across all of Lancashire and even Blackpool. Similarly, Young Harris which is also based at the Harris Museum, brings together young people aged between 11-25 to get involved in art projects,and improve their animation and drawing skills. This year, as Clarissa mentioned, both of these young groups are voluntarily helping to curate the Harris Open exhibition. This exhibition isn’t just to display the creative talent for adults, but younger people are encouraged to enter as well, since there is a section for admissions for under sixteen year olds too. The final submission days to hand in the artwork were on the 6th and 7th of December, two very busy days for the Harris Museum. More than 100 pieces of artwork was submitted including works from students, younger and older people.

Val Templeman was one of the entrees seen at the Harris Museum on the submission days, a  retired school teacher who later perused a short career in contemporary and alternative medicine. Art has been one of her latest hobbies that she became further involved in within the past six years. She has sold two of her paintings already at the Harris Museum and now designs cards for the small gift shop found at the reception of the museum. This year Val Templeman has submitted an owl painting, which she has called ‘Got my eyes on you’. She commented on her latest artwork saying, “I have experimented with watercolours for this painting. I find that animals are the best to put into the colour technique so I have mixed water with colours to achieve this effect of a vibrant, colourful, owl. “

She went on to further add how, “Inspiring other people is what I want to do, it’s what painting is all about.” In this short video clip below, Val Templeman discusses what she is hoping to achieve by submitting her work to the Harris Open and what she is inspired by.

In this short audio piece, Val Templeman discusses further her current progress with her artwork and her latest watercolour painting.

A number of students from Uclan are submitting their artwork this year including Leanne Rimmer and a few other younger people. Another student that stood out amongst the crowd is Katie Ryan, a 3rd year music student, who is also a member of a Preston-based band called Mobius Loop. The folk band was first formed in 2008, and aim to have their own platform for creativity and to promote love, harmony and respect among everyone. Katie draws inspiration from her music as well to create numerous paintings.  She, like Val Templemen, has submitted work to the Harris open in the previous years as well. Her work is now hanging up at the Korova exhibition, one is called ‘Alchemy’ and the other is called ‘Birth’. On her previous artwork, she said, “The paintings try to explore an ideal idea of life and birth. They cherish the female in all of her unmodified beauty.”

Katie Ryan went on to say, “Artistic expression has always been a massive part of my life. I used to make artwork out of leaves and mud when I was really young. The Harris Museum has always been a great source of inspiration to me as I used to enter Harris competitions as a child and I won art materials and books! I think the Harris museum and the Harris Open exhibition are amazing, a real credit to Preston.”

Below is an example of one of Katie’s paintings.

An original painting by Katie Ryan

Since there are many submissions from students this year, it seemed interesting to see whether or not students in Preston were interested in attending the Harris Open.  A survey was sent out via links on Facebook, Twitter and a general web link. Despite the survey being up for only a week, there was a reasonable amount of 34 respondents, 20 of which were students from colleges around Preston and the university. Results received from the survey were analysed and a bar graph was created to show what the students attending the exhibition are most excited to see.

A bar graph that presents   student interests in art.
A bar graph that presents student interests in art.

Many of the student respondents were either art students at university or interested to see local Preston talent. This bar graph shows that out of the 20 students, 17 of them selected painting and 15 of them also chose photography. Each respondent who filled in the survey was able to make more than one choice on what type of art form they are most keen on seeing at the Harris Open this year.

Submissions that have been made to the Harris Open this year are mainly from people within the North-West region, geo-locating their locations on a map highlights how there is much local talent scattered around different areas in Lancashire.

Last year’s annual Harris Open exhibition was an interesting one as much of the artwork complimented or captured the Guild celebrations that occurred during the summer of 2012. The Guild celebrations were certainly helpful to the Harris Museum as a vast amount of 300 entries of artwork was made to the Harris Open.  The private viewing was attended by Preston’s Mayor and Mayoress, Carl and Linda Crompton, they also made a special appearance at the end of the exhibition to hand out prizes to the winners. There were four sections in which the prizes were awarded including the Open Section, Reflections on Preston, Reflections on Preston Guild and the Under 16’s Section. The main prize was presented to Micaela Schoop, who painted a canvas named ‘It could have been so different‘  to celebrate Preston’s 2012 Guild year, which took first prize. Like last year, this year’s Harris Open event will once again be sponsored by the Grantham’s of Corporation Street, who will providing the prizes. Also, as mentioned earlier special guests including fashion designer Wayne Hemmingway will be awarding prizes when the exhibition closes in January 2014.

Here is an album of photos taken at last year’s Harris Open exhibition.

Anyone who is interested should make a visit down to the Harris Museum from the 14th of December to see local talent showcased  at the much awaited Harris Open exhibition.