Exhibition is a real touch of glass…

The King’s Lynn Arts Centre is about to offer a rare opportunity to see the Graham Cooley collection of Caithness Glass, thanks in part to patron Mark Hill. Charlotte Thorneycroft previews this exciting event…

Patron of Applied Arts at King’s Lynn Arts Centre Trust Mark Hill is a true expert in his field, sharing his considerable knowledge of collectibles through books, television (he’s appeared on Antiques Roadshow and presented Cracking Antiques) and a series of exhibitions held at the Arts Centre.

The idea behind such local exhibitions isn’t to simply highlight the hard-to-find high-profile items you may expect.   Although these pieces can exist within any collection of this calibre, the aim is to present a cross-section of 20th century design with a given theme to a wider audience, as Liz Falconbridge explains.

“Our ethos is to make the arts in general accessible to all and exhibitions such as these make high-end design appealing to all,” she says.

“Visitors are able to see items that inspire them and aren’t beyond reach to have in their own home.”

The first exhibition of this kind held at the Arts Centre featured King’s Lynn Glass, an extensive collection owned by Dr Graham Cooley, known for setting trends in contemporary collecting. Ceramic and glass collector and researcher Dr Cooley, works closely with Mark Hill enabling his fantastic collections to be exhibited at the King’s Lynn Arts Centre attracting both national and international visitors.

His experience of buying ahead of the market is well respected, which adds to the accessibility of the items on display.

In 2006 the Arts Centre hosted the Fat Lava exhibition, a unique collection of Italian and German ceramics which had never been exhibited in public before. More than 3,500 people visited the exhibition and Fat Lava is still talked about today. The next Cooley/Hill collaboration at the Arts Centre was Hi Sklo, Lo Sklo an incredible collection of designs by factories and designers across four decades of Czech glass.

Now the King’s Lynn Arts Centre looks forward to welcoming the next Graham Cooley collection with their Caithness Glass exhibition which will run from 12th November until 25th February 2012 in the Fermoy Gallery.

Featuring over 300 pieces, this blockbuster exhibition is expected to attract huge crowds especially from London since King’s Lynn is the furthest south it will be displayed before returning to storage. Mark Hill recently launched his new book Caithness Glass: Loch, Heather and Peat to coincide with the opening of the exhibition tour at Broadfield House Glass Museum, and it features the history of the company and looks at the cutting edge designs which are rarely to be viewed outside of London.

In keeping with the philosophy of opening the art world’s doors to everyone, the Arts Centre has introduced other initiatives to interest new audiences.

“As a registered Arts Award (11-24 year old qualification) Centre, we’ve been delivering the Arts Award since it started five years ago,” explains Liz.

“Our new Arts Award 7-11 pilot is based on a Saturday art club – it’s a unique approach which is proving very successful and was selected as one of 50 national pilots. The children on the course are encouraged to explore the effect art and design has on their everyday lives.  Realising their clothes, shoes, bedroom wallpaper and DVD cases have all had a designer behind them allows them to find their own creative potential in a diverse subject.”

When bringing the theatre to life, young audiences were again considered when the team behind the Arts Centre Trust chose Frankenstein and Macbeth as the first theatre performances in the Guildhall since the takeover.

Both these chilling classics are on the school curriculum and offer audiences of all ages visually and auditory spine-tingling performances. Frankenstein is brought to the Guildhall by the award-winning Proteus Theatre Company – with their unique performance style, this adaption of the Mary Shelley classic fires the imagination with its mirrors to modern anxieties.

Meanwhile, the Icarus Theatre Company have received rave reviews for their production of Macbeth which fuses the original verse with traditional and modern theatre techniques – it’s perfect for new Shakespeare audiences and those already acquainted with the play.
The people of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk have helped save the Arts Centre, but continued support is needed, which is made more easily achievable by communicating the needs of its users.

As a venue working with the community for the community, the King’s Lynn Arts Centre Trust is always keen to hear from the public and local businesses to create new opportunities.  KL

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