Eastern Open marks centre's revamp

SUE SKINNER It is a unique showcase for artistic talent from the length and breadth of East Anglia.The opening of the annual Eastern Open exhibition at King's Lynn Arts Centre will be a particular cause for celebration, as it marks the relaunch of the venue's visual arts and education facilities following a £462,000 redevelopment and refurbishment.

SUE SKINNER

It is a unique showcase for artistic talent from the length and breadth of East Anglia.

The opening of the annual Eastern Open exhibition at King's Lynn Arts Centre will be a particular cause for celebration, as it marks the relaunch of the venue's visual arts and education facilities following a £462,000 redevelopment and refurbishment.

But yesterday, it was time to tackle the hardest task of all, as three celebrity judges began their assessment of the entries to decide which were worthy of display.


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This year's show has attracted 689 pieces by 287 artists from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, which will be whittled down to 100-150 and spread across all four of the centre's gallery spaces for the first time.

The Eastern Open was introduced in 1969 to persuade local painters not prolific enough for one-man exhibitions to join with others and show their work.

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Over the years, it has evolved into the largest and longest-standing regional open competition in the country, with the prize for the best entry now standing at £2000.

Anyone over 16, whether amateur or professional, may submit items for consideration, so long as they can be wall-mounted and comply with a size limit.

The centre's visual arts and education manager, Liz Falconbridge, said: “There's no restriction on media – you could have jelly if you could make an interesting artwork from it.

“I think the most we've ever had is 705 works so we are nearly up to that this year and we've got a good spread of the eastern region.

“We are pushing the boat out because we are celebrating the new space.

“Hopefully, we can show a lot more of the work that's submitted. We've got the scope now, which makes a big difference.”

This year's judges are renowned sculptor Richard Wentworth, Messums founder and gallery owner David Messum, and Michael Stanley, director of the Milton Keynes gallery, MK G.

Ms Falconbridge said: “They are aware of the fact that it's a total mix of people and they are from all sorts of different backgrounds.

“They are looking for work that impresses them as they look at it. It could be somebody who they see is working as an amateur but has created something that's worked. It's got to appeal to at least two of the judges.”

She added: “It's heart-warming that we get these amazing people giving up their time for free. They do it incredibly generously.

“We are highly honoured, but it's a gesture which shows they are committed to what we are doing in King's Lynn.”

t The Eastern Open runs from May 7 until June 25. The galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and admission is free. The exhibition will also include a large display of postcards adorned with work by the artists, which will be on sale for £12 each.

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