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Spotlight: Surrey Hills Arts

7th Jul 2021

This week we spoke to Surrey Hills Arts to learn more about the work they do, and what the rise in outdoor activities over the past 18 months has meant to them, here’s what they had to say:

Surrey Hills Arts is a partnership between Surrey Arts and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a designated, protected landscape that runs across the breadth of the county. For over 10 years, Programme Manager Ali Clarke had been drawn to this special landscape to engage artists and communities with its rich history, geology and nature. In 2015, Surrey Hills Arts was launched which formalised this programme and its focus on connecting people with the landscape.

Surrey Hills Arts aims to inspire new audiences, deliver inclusive projects, promote wellbeing, develop artists and enlighten people on the environmental challenges we are facing.

The popularity of the Surrey Hills Arts programme is down to the quality of the artists, the depth of the projects and the inclusive, accessible engagement activity. We are keen for the engagement to be as integrated as possible where people work alongside the artists and learn about the landscape through the arts. For example, on targeting disadvantaged school children to participate in Arts Award, they received a talk, workshops, interviewed the artist, went on a walk together and sat sketching with him. This valuable method means the young people were relaxed and open to learn through completely new experiences.

The challenges we have faced over the last 18 months have been very different to others. We could still hold our annual arts trail, present an audio visual installation and launch a new sculptural seat, the Optohedron. In fact, our projects were even more popular as they provided people with much needed culture, outdoors where they could be visited any time. The University students we work with were so thankful that they were able to exhibit at a time when all their shows had been cancelled. However, as funding was diverted to the emergency, we had to abandon one of our projects which had got through the first stage.

Currently on view is Heathland Artworks at RSPB Farnham Heath and a new artwork at Denbies Hillside called ‘Radius’ in addition to our programme of permanent pieces Inspiring Views. 

Our next challenge is exploring how artists can contribute towards biodiversity and climate mitigation. We are awaiting a funding outcome on a project that will work with communities and artists to green urban pockets of land and create sculptural habitats to attract and support local wildlife. We will also be holding a symposium on the same theme this November, so as always, we have a busy programme!

To find out more, visit: www.surreyhillsarts.org

Image: ‘Optohedron’ by Will Nash, photo ©John Miller

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