It’s amazing to think that we opened the door of The Artery for the first time eight years ago. What began as a dream to give Banbury a proper shop dedicated to art, turned into far more than I had imagined. Back then we sold just art supplies and had just one art class per week. All I kept hearing was how much of a ‘cultural desert’ Banbury was, but this didn’t fit with the many and varied artists that called into the shop on a daily basis, so I set out to change it. Even if you are not into painting or drawing so aren’t a specific customer of ours, the chances are you may have seen or benefited from the many things we have set up and created in the area. I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve in what is a fairly short amount of time, and can’t wait to get my teeth into the next eight years!
Sitting here in our dedicated and custom classroom typing at the laptop, to which our camera and smartboard are attached to, I can’t help but see the great strides we have made in making learning art accessible. We now run a wide programme of nearly forty fully
tutored art classes every month covering traditional craft, drawing, watercolour, acrylic, oil, and gouache panting, calligraphy, and art history; which is one of the broadest curricula in the area. Not only that, we have lessons almost every single day of the week, all year round, including evenings too, and our student base is so varied in terms of age and skill sets, it really is quite staggering now I sit down to pull all of this information together!
Our shop has also grown in this time, although the actual square footage has shrank since we opened in our first premises in Church Lane. We now carry such a wide range of art supplies with quality brands, after making the decision not to sell anything that we wouldn’t be happy to use ourselves professionally. We pride ourselves on being the only dedicated independent art shop in the area, and have a great amount of pride in what we do.
We absolutely love helping and encouraging people to appreciate and learn the wonderful world of art. But we are far more than ‘just an art shop’, so here are a few of the things we have achieved and created…
(i) Banbury ArtFest – working closely with Banbury Town Council, we created Banbury’s answer to Art In Action. Banbury ArtFest was born two years ago and has grown from strength to strength, starting with a marquee of just twenty artists last year, to nearly forty this year. A marquee full of people making, doing, painting, and potting. It really is a sight to behold. We are so proud to have the
support of the town council, and for them allowing us to have our event as part of The Banbury and District Show each June.
(ii) Church Lane Gallery – this was created by our close working relationship with Cherwell District Council’s Town Coordinators. We so wanted to test the viability of a gallery in Banbury, so using their pop up shop scheme, we began a month long trial…which turned into two months, then four months, then by the sixth
month, we had so much interest in it from other artists wanting to join, we created Banbury Artists Cooperative. The gallery is now looking forward to its third year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have set this in motion.
(iii) Banbury Art Academy – I was chairman of Banbury & District Art Society for five years, seeing it through to its momentous seventieth anniversary, but sadly dwindling membership saw this iconic institution have to close down. Determined to keep the embers burning, I set up the Art Academy here at the
shop which basically follows the same programme of monthly demonstrations as the Art Society to keep people inspired by art.
(iv) The Margaret Whitehouse Memorial Fund – Losing my mother over two years ago was heart breaking, but knowing how much she loved working here at the shop, and enjoyed art and teaching it at times, we set up the fund to help underprivileged young adults learn art. I want them to be given the opportunities I never had because of growing up in a poor household. So any adult aged 18-25
who is on means tested benefits can apply to join one of our art classes every week for six months – for free. We even supply them with the materials to use.
(v) Banbury Artist of the Year – this is our most recent creation. Four categories: Professional, Amateur, Young, and Junior, all compete for the public vote in a month long exhibition, and the chance to win a £0 voucher for art supplies here in the shop.
Outside of the shop, we have been the main driving force of Banbury Old Town Association and planning the annual Old Town Party, and many other initiatives to improve Banbury Town Centre. As a business 2016 saw us head to London to take part in the Great British High Street Awards, where we were one of the top three shops in the country for our use of Twitter. Then 2017 saw us in the finals of the Retail category in the Cherwell Business Awards.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing, and we have faced many challenges and struggles; but we all love what we do so much that we can’t see ourselves doing anything else! Thank you so
much for all of your support over the last eight years; we exist because of you. Thank you for supporting our little shop instead of large retail giants of the internet. We really and truly do appreciate every single sale. We are proud and pleased to have done so much, and cannot wait to see what direction 2019 leads us in.