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Shrewsbury Arts Trail returning for 2023

The townwide Shrewsbury Arts Trail is returning for 2023 – with a sculpture trail this year bringing iconic Salvador Dalí and Jacob Chandler sculptures to Shrewsbury town centre for the months of July and August 2023.

Jess Richards and Sculptor Andres Logan at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery 2022
Jess Richards and Sculptor Andres Logan at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery 2022

The exhibition has a fascinating and inspiring theme this year: `Movement’.

Trail creator – mum of one Jess Richards – has united the arts community in her home town – she launched the town-wide arts trail and sculpture trail as Shrewsbury emerged from the pandemic in 2021, working with internationally-renowned artists.

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Organisers are extending submissions to artists in neighbouring counties this year, including, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Powys, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Submissions are now open.

The town-wide trail will be returning once again this summer – with a bronze sculpture trail in place from June 1, including important Salvador Dalí and Jacob Chandler sculptural artworks.

Throughout July and August, around 600 regional and local artists are expected to participate in 16 exhibitions, workshops and events taking place across Shrewsbury.
Artists from Shropshire and neighbouring counties are currently being invited to submit works on this year’s theme of ‘Movement’ inspired by Shrewsbury’s connection to the father of ballet and pantomime John Weaver. Selected works will feature in an ‘Open Exhibition’ split between Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, Theatre Severn and The Parade Shopping Centre.

The trail, which was launched to boost spirits during the pandemic in 2021, has united the artistic community in Shrewsbury, taking over the whole town, with exhibitions across multiple venues including shopping centres, the town museum, coffee shops, art galleries and churches – and even the town park. There’s also a special exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery featuring some very big names: LS Lowry, Salvador Dalí, Fabian Perez, Sherree Valentine Daines, Jacob Chandler, JPR Stitch, Banksy, Damien Hirst, Micheal James Talbot, Man Ray, John Swannell and more.

Other events include a glass festival at St Mary’s Church, a family treasure trail, a ‘Secret Art Sale’ at the Soden Collection, a dance photography exhibition and more.
It’s a wonderful example a Covid-19 collaboration which has gone on to enrich local life beyond the pandemic.

“Shrewsbury is such a brilliantly creative place, there were great things going on all over town already – I just thought we’d be stronger together,” says creator Jess Richards, a mum of one, who saw the need to bring artists together.

“It was first created as the town was coming out of lockdown, to have something lovely to do and inspire us having been shut away. It worked, it grew and built into a wave of positivity that hopefully demonstrates that Art has huge power to connect us.”

The first year of the trail saw a network of exhibitions across town, with a trail map. The sculpture trail came in 2022, when Jess managed to persuade internationally renowned artist Andrew Logan to bring his giant ‘Cosmic Egg’ to Shrewsbury for the summer season, along with the mirrored sword ‘Excalibur’ which rose out of the water in The Dingle, in The Quarry (Shrewsbury’s town centre park) – among others.

This year, Jess approached The Dali Universe, custodians of one of the largest groupings of Salvador Dali artworks in the world – and was stunned when they agreed to loan two Dali artworks to The Shrewsbury Arts Trail during July and August.

“I couldn’t believe I was even talking to them,” Jess said. “Dalí is so iconic. I studied him at school and am a huge fan of Surrealism. He’s one of the greatest artists of all time – it is unbelievable to think we’re going to be able to appreciate his work up close in person in Shrewsbury.”

The sculpture trail, supported by Shrewsbury BID will see Dalí`s famous five-metre tall ‘Surrealist Piano’ (1954) displayed outside Shrewsbury Castle. The impressive ‘Homage to Terpsichore’ sculpture (conceived in 1977), depicts the Greek muse of dance and chorus. She will probably be on view in the courtyard at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.

Dalí Universe International Project Manager, James Sanders, agreed to work with Jess after initial conversations led to a site visit at Shrewsbury Town Centre. The Dalí Universe receives a great many exhibition requests every year. The wonderful historic city-centre location and the particular relevance of the theme of MOVEMENT to Salvador Dalí made this a great exhibition project proposal´. Mr. Sanders also emphasised thatThe concepts of movement and dance are very important and very apparent in the art of Salvador Dalí. He was greatly inspired by these themes – as is particularly evident in artworks such as Dalinian Dancer´. The three large Salvador Dalí sculptures :Surrealist Piano’ ‘Homage to Terpsichore’ and`Dalinian Dancer´ have never before been exhibited in the UK. It will be very exciting to see them unveiled to the UK public in Shrewsbury.

Poise and Tension III’ a steel sculpture by Midlands based artist Jacob Chandler will rise up from The Dingle pond this year.

Moving such prestigious sculptures to Shrewsbury involves more than a bit of red tape – there are questions of insurance and Jess has to find art installers, import brokers not to mention a huge crane. Not to mention securing funding through local sponsorship and grant applications (the Shrewsbury Arts Trail is supported by Shrewsbury BID, Visual Art Network, Callaghan Framing, Shrewsbury Museum, The Parade Shopping Centre and TCA Accountants).

But Jess is undaunted: “Having a sculpture trail in Shrewsbury just felt right. I could see it in my mind’s eye. I wanted something big and impactful. It’s about inspiring local artists, and showing that art is for everyone.

“I saw other arts trails and thought we’ve got that naturally here in Shrewsbury without even doing anything. We’ve got all these spaces for art, all kinds of different studios and exhibitions and open studios – but there wasn’t someone to pull it all together and say bang, we’re here, this is what we do. It’s about being a destination for the Arts which Shrewsbury has already got anyway. We’ve just kind of fluffed it up a bit.

“Getting Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery on board, and Andrew Logan last year elevated it greatly. And now working with The Dali Universe, it just gets better and better! Other arts trails seem to have followed a set of rules. I wasn’t aware of those. I’ve come about it from a different angle.”

It’s a huge thing for Jess to pull off, alongside being mum to her five-year-old daughter and running her own small business Shrewsbury Arts and Crafts, selling unique artisan goods:
“I look forward to the point I’m not learning things for the first time. Each thing I do has a different set of legalese. I won’t give up – I just keep on going.”

The theme this year commemorates the 350th anniversary of the birth of Shrewsbury Dancing Master John Weaver – the father of English ballet and pantomime – who was born in the Shropshire market town in 1673.

“The theme of Movement is a loose one, to make it as open as possible for artists to submit work,” Jess said. “We are featuring many works with dancers in honour of John Weaver, as a lovely nod to an influential man from Shrewsbury. Artists can interpret it however they like.

We want it to be really broad – as inclusive as possible – it’s about what is movement to you, and how do you represent movement?”

Submissions (all media) on the theme of ‘Movement’ are invited from Shropshire and neighbouring counties of Powys, Herefordshire, Cheshire, Stafford and Warwickshire with a deadline of June 1. You can find a submission form on the Shrewsbury Arts Trail website shrewsburyartstrail.com.

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