Contemporary art enriches people’s lives

Jo Bushnell from Aspex art gallery
Jo Bushnell from Aspex art gallery
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Columnist Jo Bushnell is the director of the contemporary art gallery Aspex, in Gunwharf

I’M thrilled to have the opportunity to write this first column from the team at Aspex, in which we will try to give a behind-the-scenes peek into our work and the people involved.

So it falls to me to give a bit of background and an overview of what we do.

Aspex is Portsmouth’s premier contemporary art gallery and we’ve been working in the city for 35 years.

For the first 25 years we were tucked away in Somers Town and for the past 10 in the Vulcan Building behind Loch Fyne at Gunwharf Quays.

Our move here was tremendously important to us because we wanted to reach out to more people.

Many think contemporary art is not for them, that you have to be in the know and it is elitist.

But our team of staff, trustees and volunteers believe passionately that visual art can enrich people’s lives, so we do all we can to try to get the local community involved.

So we love getting out and our annual visits to Victorious are a real highlight.

This year we had two tents, one in the fabulous Kids’ Arena making monsters with artist Ollie John, and in the World Music Village with the Futurators, our young curators, led by artist Matt Westbrook.

A dedicated team of artists and volunteers worked with more than 1,000 people over the weekend.

It’s great to make new friends.

It was really wonderful to welcome back home-grown talent in the form of Ollie, who has just graduated.

Ollie used to work in our café so it was with real pride that we invited him to work with us as a professional artist.

Talking of cafés, we are also thrilled to be celebrating our first anniversary working with Lily & Lime LD, a social enterprise which trains and supports young people with learning disabilities to get into work.

They run our café providing fabulous coffee, cakes and light lunches and are a real joy to work with.

There is just enough space to mention the extraordinary Barbara Bessant, our 84-year-old current artist-in-residence for our forthcoming exhibition, Platform.

It features the fresh new work of 12 recent graduates.

I’ll tell you more about them next time...