I recently visited the Thelma Hulbert Gallery for the opening of the Evolver Prize 2013 exhibition. The gallery occupies a beautiful Georgian townhouse which has been converted into a light and airy public art space. It is just over the road from the car park at Dowell Street, and there is easy access to the gallery, cafe and shop on the ground floor, with a learning room, the Thelma Hulbert Collection, and extra exhibition space situated upstairs. On arrival, visitors received a glass of wine or elderflower fizz in return for a small donation, and we all had time to inspect fifty shortlisted entries for the Evolver Prize, before a short prize giving ceremony. It was a refreshing way to see a variety of work from a large number of South West artists in one place, and the opening provided a good opportunity to meet some of them and discuss their work. All the entries were the size of the Evolver magazine, and transparent frames with cover text were helpfully provided so that visitors could hold them up to the original artworks and gauge their impact as cover art. There was also a competition for visitors to submit their personal favourites, which made for some intriguing conversations with other visitors. The gallery & cafe was a great place to meet up with friends after shopping in town, and the shop had some wonderful and unusual items for sale, such as Tate Gallery art books, felt jewelry, and home wares made by local craft artists. The changing programme of events and exhibitions means that the gallery is in a unique position to showcase some spectacular work, and provide links between the artists and a much wider community through its learning and hands-on projects. Running alongside this exhibition was a display of Evolver magazine covers created by pupils from Mill Water School, a community special school in Honiton. TGH feels like a place where contemporary art can open doors for everyone, and there always seams to be something interesting going on, whether you just have twenty minutes to spare for a cup of coffee, or want to spend the whole afternoon browsing the current exhibition. I recommend a visit for all ages!
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