Everyone involved with the project understands the significance of the relaunch of Sherborne House to Sherborne, our community and the arts across Dorset. It will provide a unique opportunity for those seeking cultural experiences, inviting the curious to come and explore the house and its history and to be a part of its future. The transformation created by the restoration will strike a sensitive balance between the echoes of the building’s past and a vision for the future.

Over the past year, Dorset Visual Arts (DVA) has been working with The Sherborne to develop the much-anticipated arts programme as the house reopens after its extensive renovation. Visitors can expect a variety of exhibitions from the best regional artists with an accompanying programme of events, activities, talks and screenings to engage, educate and excite. We want to invite and enthuse the whole community with a welcoming programme that speaks to different groups and interests, providing a rich variety  of experiences for all to enjoy – and all within a magnificent setting!

DVA, which runs the Dorset Art Weeks event, is working with its members, arts organisations and educational establishments to develop the programme. The first year will focus primarily on work from DVA members, across a range of art forms, celebrating and championing the best art in the county. With over 500 artists taking part in Dorset Art Weeks, there is a wealth of talent which can begin to breathe life into the building once more and animate its future. DVA is looking forward to making the house its home and will have its main office here but will also continue to work on new initiatives for the visual arts, energised by the project.

Beyond the first year, we plan to develop and create exhibitions featuring a blend of high-quality, thoughtfully curated work from Dorset creatives, interspersed with national touring exhibitions, loans and work by submission or invitation from outside the county. It’s an ambitious, inclusive programme which will establish The Sherborne as a must-visit arts destination here at the heart of the Southwest and an important hub for the local community.

We are committed to supporting young and emerging talent, working with schools and colleges to achieve this and exploring the opportunity of potential residencies, bursaries and mentoring opportunities. We’ll be working with the local arts community and there will be space to hold arts fairs, open calls and festival style events.

A well-equipped workshop space will welcome group visits and tours to The Sherborne to create personal work in response to the exhibition programme. It will also be an important space for local art groups and tutors to run workshops, as well as housing well- being sessions and other interest groups to engage with the building and all it has to offer.

So, what exactly might you expect to see in the first year? With many rooms of different ages and dimensions, the history and feel of the house is an important consideration in the programming and we’ve taken time to talk to different groups and arts professionals to see what might be possible.

A core exhibition programme will run in the rooms on the first floor of the main Georgian house, as well as the Medieval wing. The Drawing Room will host a semi-permanent display of drawings and other works exploring notions around observation and recording. We want Dorset to be seen as a place where not only great art is inspired and created but a place where people will want to come, show, and experience the best in regional fine art, craft and making.

Arts fairs and open call-style exhibitions will be possible in the Pavilion, a stunning new build, with an innovative, elegant structure leading off from the site’s Georgian and Tudor parts. Talks, a film programme and even theatre screenings can all be experienced here. A courtyard, amphitheatre and terraced garden will feature sculpture and other interventions, including performance. A lively programme will engage at different times, weekends and evenings, with hospitality areas inviting visitors to stay and enjoy the experience. It will be a real community hub with a wider appeal to regional and national audiences.

The building has many different spaces which need to work together - not just around the arts programme but also with the many other elements and activities planned for the site including the restaurant and bar, retail area and not forgetting the Thornhill Mural. An audio trail will tell the story of the building, creating another layer of interest for visitors.

Dorset has always attracted artists to make and create and it’s a wonderful gift to have a stunning venue with an incredible range of experiences right in the heart of our historic town. The project provides scope to create new opportunities for artists, connecting to the community for all, business and other cultural experiences, pointing Sherborne towards an exciting future with the meticulous restoration of the building sensitively acknowledging the past.

A building with so many stories to tell and many more to come.

This piece was originally published in the September edition of the Sherborne Times


Website design by AztecMedia, Yeovil, Somerset