It’s worrying that artists are struggling for space

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STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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We’ve always maintained that Portsmouth has an enviable cultural offering.

From theatre to gigs, films to clubbing and museum exhibitions and displays, there is plenty to see and do in the city. And of course we have our rich naval and literary heritage too.

But what about art? Have we got enough spaces on Portsea Island in which artists can showcase their work?

Today on page 14 we report how Colin Merrin, a member of the Royal Watercolour Society, claims the lack of a major art gallery leaves Portsmouth’s ‘vibrant artistic community’ struggling to find opportunities to show the public what they’ve been doing.

So is he right? Well, it’s true that Chichester and Southampton do have big art galleries and we don’t.

It would be great to have one. But aspex gallery at Gunwharf has attracted a growing reputation as a home for the latest in contemporary art. Meanwhile, redevelopment of the Hot Walls arches in Old Portsmouth into art studios will provide another creative shop window.

Yet it’s worrying that Mr Merrin, who is part of Creative Coverage which represents selected professional artists and craftspeople, says the group has been unable to find any exhibition space so far. According to him, the Hot Walls arches have inhibiting terms and conditions that are putting off some artists.

Mr Merrin then goes on to urge the University of Portsmouth to reverse its decision to axe undergraduate and Masters degree courses in fine art as of this academic year.

We have a proud artistic heritage here and can’t help wondering what renowned 19th century marine artist William Wyllie, who made the city his home and famously captured scenes of Portsmouth harbour and the Solent, would make of Mr Merrin’s concerns.