In Conversation with Frances Fergusson
BORDERS ART FAIR 2019
Running from 15th – 17th March, the Borders Art Fair is a highlight of our spring calendar. The Fair is a festival of visual arts and a celebration of the wealth of creativity found throughout the Borders, something we strongly focus on at Milne Graden.
This year, Milne Graden is delighted to be a sponsor of the fair, and we sit down In Conversation with Director, Frances Fergusson, to find out more about how it all began and what we can look forward to in 2019.
“The Borders Art Fair was started by local picture framer and artist, Denise Playfair, who wanted to create an event where local artists could exhibit, sell and gain exposure,” Frances tells us. She goes on to say, “such was the interest in the initial events, that a couple of years later, Border Arts Development C.I.C. was established to run the Fair.”
“It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists, hear about their processes and learn about their work.”
As a non profit organisation, opportunities for public and private funding increased, and the Fair was re-branded and re-launched in 2018, when Frances came on board.
“Now the Borders Art Fair welcomes over 60 exhibitors, showcasing work from hundreds of artists, including The Scottish Gallery, Chris Rose SWLA, Helen Tabor, White Fox Gallery and WASPS” explains Frances. “It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists, hear about their processes and learn about their work.”
The Fair offers an immersive art experience for all ages and abilities. Visitors get a behind-the-scenes insight into the works on display through talking to the exhibitors, watching live demonstrations and taking part in artist-led workshops.
The Fair’s rebrand in 2018 saw the introduction of a ‘Spotlight Artists’ area highlighting 5 highly esteemed, locally based artists, who’s work will greet visitors as they arrive at the venue.
This year, the specially curated exhibition includes former Keeper of the RSA and lecturer in Drawing, Painting and Printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art, George Donald and one of Scotland’s most significant sculptors and teachers, Jake Harvey.
“the Borders Art Fair aims to enthuse and encourage the next generation of artists in the region.”
Frances adds, “George Donald is leading a life drawing masterclass, and Ann Oram (another of the Spotlight Artists) will be giving a demonstration, painting one of her flowerscapes. Visitors can also try their hand at printing, landscape painting, or even stone carving at one of the free workshops”
In 2019 the Fair is expanding to include events in the wider area, with a view to developing and encouraging community involvement. “In collaboration with Borders Art Fair, the Royal Scottish Academy will be hosting an exhibition over the weekend, with live printmaking, in Kelso Town Hall.” Frances says.
“Free shuttle buses will be running between the Fair and the centre of Kelso”, Frances notes, “to encourage Fair visitors into the town and to make the event as accessible as possible to those living locally.”
On the Saturday and Sunday, Robert Adam-designed architectural masterpiece, Mellerstain House, will open its doors for exclusive art tours, hosted by the Earl of Haddington. Highlights of the exquisite collection include paintings by Old Masters, such as Van Dyck, Ruysdael, and Gainsborough, to name just a few.
Frances tells us to “look out for new work from Michael Batey, Helen Tabor and, Gill Walton following her sell out show last year”. There is also an array of talent new to this year’s Fair, covering a range of media, “new exhibitors include Edinburgh-based Alpha Art Gallery, sculptors Michelle de Bruin and Josephine Crossland, the Dancing Light Gallery and collage paintings by Karen Stamper.”
“art doesn’t have to be pretentious, but it should be enjoyed.”
The Art Fair is also bringing some well-respected voices of the art scene to the Borders, with its line-up of lunchtime talks. Running from 1pm – 2pm, the talks provide fascinating insights while visitors refuel for the afternoon ahead.
The programme features Philip Long, Director of the new V&A Dundee and, esteemed writer, curator and Director of The Scottish Gallery, Guy Peploe. Robin Baillie and Richie Cumming, of National Galleries of Scotland will also be discussing the the NGS Outreach Programme for Young People.
In addition to bringing the creative talent of the Borders to the fore, Frances explains that: “the Borders Art Fair aims to enthuse and encourage the next generation of artists in the region.”
Throughout the event, the Fair encourages a warm and family-family-friendly environment, offering face-painting, along with a children’s drop-in art studio. The Fair hopes to spark creativity in little ones by running a host of workshops for kids of all ages, in conjunction with Allanbank Arts.
Through these activities, children actively participate in the exhibition and are encouraged to engage with the art on show, inspiring them to create their own artworks.
“a wide range of art will be available to buy, to suit all budgets and tastes and entry to the event and workshops is free”
As well as the workshops taking place over the weekend, Frances tells us, “this year the Borders Art Fair is hosting art competitions for primary aged children, plus a pilot outreach programme to engage youngsters from more deprived areas. Both schemes are taking place prior to the event and the results of each will be on display at the Fair.”
This year the organisers are also piloting a creative careers advice session for local high school children, which will take place on the first morning of the event.
A welcoming and inclusive approach is at the heart of the Fair’s ethos, as Frances states “art doesn’t have to be pretentious, but it should be enjoyed.” She goes on to highlight, “a wide range of art will be available to buy, to suit all budgets and tastes and entry to the event and workshops is free” (although workshops do need to be booked via the website).
For any visitors in need of a pick-me-up, there will be an onsite cafe and bar, showcasing the best of Borders food and drink, run by local business Born in the Borders.
All in all, Frances enthuses, “the Borders Art Fair aims to deliver a great atmosphere and a very welcoming, fun day out.”
If a property is booked in any of our cottages as a short break stay, complementary tickets to the preview are included for our guests!