We've decided to get to know some of our local business partners a bit better - and today we speak to Judy Stevens from Artists Open Houses...

Artists Open Houses 2020 Winter Festival 

Online: 21st November-31st December
Visit in-person: 5th-13th December
Please check the AOH website for regular updates: www.aoh.org.uk

Photo of the AOH Brochure cover by Artist: Sophie Wake and a photo of Judy Stevens by photographer Charlotte Mcpherson

  • Please tell us about yourself and how Artists Open Houses all started

The history is very long. The Open Houses began over 30 yeas ago, in a small way, as part of Brighton Festival when Ned Hoskins, an artist in Fiveways, invited the public into his home to view his paintings. The movement grew, more areas of the city and beyond became involved and the Open Houses became part of the Fringe Festival, where it got a bit lost amongst the many Fringe events. In 1990 my partner Chris Lord and I, along with a small group of fellow artists, had the idea to separate out the Open Houses and create an independent festival: Artists Open Houses (AOH). It has since gone from strength to strength. Generally we hold two festivals a year, one in May, along with the other Brighton Festivals, and a special AOH Christmas festival. This year it has been necessary to combine the two in one AOH Winter festival which will deliver the best aspects of both the main (May) and Christmas AOH Festivals, offering great art as well as unique and handmade Christmas gifts

  • How has the event evolved over the last few years?

Over the last few years we have developed all digital aspects of the festival both on our website and general marketing. This year, out of necessity, we have developed our online platforms faster and further than previously - and this year the AOH festival will be a little different. Due to the national lockdown, the Festival will run online 21st November - 31st December, where Open House artists will offer behind-the-scenes virtual tours and galleries of their work. By browsing the artists’ listings, you can hear about the work, the processes of making and the ideas behind it, and you can buy the work directly from them.

From 5th-13th December* we hope to return to normality, when you will be able to visit Open Houses to view the work and meet the artists in their homes. *Please visit: www.aoh.org.ok for regular updates and specific opening days.

  • Can you tell us about the independent artist scene in Brighton & Hove and are there any rising talents we should be looking out for?

Supporting the city’s new emerging artists is important to AOH. This year we are delighted that internationally regarded artist and AOH Ambassador, David Shrigley has offered mentoring advice to two groups of young artists exhibiting in the AOH festival; sculpture students from the University of Brighton (supported by a student bursary from the Hanningtons Lane development company) and recent graduates exhibiting in the New Grounds exhibition at Gallery Lock In. To both groups David has offered valuable online workshops, critical advice and tutorials. Their exhibitions are called We, You, Me and Body, Nobody, respectively.

  • What’s the best thing about your work and what do you love most about what you do?

We love being fully involved in the local community. The Artists Open Houses festival is a true community event, encouraging participation from artists at all stages of their careers, from school and college students, through young emergent artists, to established and professional artists and makers. Many charities supporting artists with mental health issues, learning disabilities and older artists in residential care, are also taking part this winter, either virtually or in person, reflecting their experiences of the last few months through their art. More than ever this year we think it is important for visitors to support our local artists and makers who help to make Brighton and Hove the vibrant city that it is. Many AOH artists have made good use of the isolation of recent months, finding space to explore new ideas and ways of working. We think that, whether browsing artists’ listings online or visiting Open Houses in person, this festival will offer a wonderful opportunity to discover really exciting, inspiring and distinctive new work, alongside Christmas gifts.

  • What’s your average day like, or is it ever average?

This year has been like no other – we have had to have the ability to adapt and change all plans at great speed, whilst making sure to take our artist community with us. The AOH team is amazing and has worked tirelessly and supportively throughout the difficulties of the last nine months.

  • What is the biggest challenge or opportunity currently for you at the moment?

All of the above!! We don't really know from day to day what to expect. We are really hoping the Government doesn’t extend the current lockdown beyond December 2nd and that visitors will be able to visit Open Houses in person during this month. But keep your eyes on the AOH website for all updates www.aoh.org.ok!

  • What do you love most about Brighton & Hove?

I love the creativity, vitality and open mindedness of the people who live here. Also their crazy commitment to things – last week my dance class danced for an hour on the seafront despite the cold, wind and rain. It felt really magical.

  • If anything at all, what would you like to be doing as an alternative career?

I am also an artist, printmaker and illustrator and would be very happy to have more time to devote to my own work. I also love writing.

  • Apart from Brighton of course, where else would you most like to live?

Somewhere remote, at the bottom of a hill - but near to a railway station with a direct line back into Brighton!

Photo of sculpture students at the University of Brighton

Artists Open Houses 2020 Winter Festival 
Online:
21st November-31st December
Visit in-person: 5th-13th December
Please check the AOH website for regular updates: www.aoh.org.uk

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