New man in the picture at County Durham gallery

The man overseeing a much-loved Spennymoor gallery is calling for local artists and groups to help turn the facility into a vibrant artistic hub.

John Thompson, temporary Art Gallery Manager

John Thompson, who took up the role of temporary Art Gallery Manager at the Town Hall’s Bob Abley Gallery in September, wants to engage North East artists to help him breathe new life into the building.

Famed for its impressive collection of art by Norman Cornish – the celebrated mining artist born and raised in Spennymoor – the Bob Abley displays and sells a large collection of artwork mainly from regional artists.

John, who developed his love for art during his 11-year stint owning and running North East Art Collective in Eldon Garden, Newcastle, wants to re-invigorate the walls of the gallery, not only displaying more works, but bringing artists into the gallery to work.

John Thompson, temporary Art Gallery Manager

“The Bob Abley Gallery is a fantastic community asset and one that Spennymoor is rightly proud of,” he said. “People are drawn to it by the incredibly emotive and evocative works of Norman Cornish but they are always surprised by the variety and array of styles of work we have here from other artists.

“What I want to do is simple: display more art, sell more pieces, and create more vibrancy by bringing in people who are passionate about art, and North East art in particular.”

John has plans to turn one of the rooms into a studio and invite artists to work and draw their inspiration from the Town Hall, Spennymoor and paintings on display.

He would also like to stock the Gallery with volunteers who are passionate about painting.

“We have all of this inspiring work on display in this inspiring building at the centre of a somewhat inspiring town – what a fantastic prospect for an artist to come and draw on all of this and channel it into their work?” said John.

“We currently have four of the most fantastic volunteers I could wish for, but we need more. The Bob Abley gallery would massively benefit from input from more people who are passionate about Norman Cornish, but that’s not essential – a love of painting, colour, sculpture…anything artistic would make them ideal for us.”

The Bob Abley Gallery is one of the town’s most treasured attractions. As well as Norman Cornish, it hosts work from Chris and Steve Rocks – twin brothers among the most exciting and sought after contemporary artists working in Europe. From Spennymoor, the Rocks have a permanent exhibition of their work – inspired by the power of nature and the effects of light on land, sky and water – in the gallery.

It also features work from Keith Proctor, Walter Holmes, Peter [Deetz] Davidson and Swin Tempest to name just a few.

John added: “In over a decade working with the artistic community, I have developed an extensive contact book that I’m now putting to good use. My plan is to harness everything that makes the Bob Abley gallery great and develop that even further with exciting new artists, passionate people and events that inspire people to pay us a visit…and hopefully invest in some art!

“I urge anyone inspired by art, creating art or simply with an interest in art, to get in touch with us and help us drive forward this fantastic Spennymoor gallery.”

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