Notes from Wales Issue 1: Autumn 2014 - Page 12

From our correspondent in... Mid-Wales Rebecca Spooner, our mid-Wales correspondent, tells us the treasures that can be found as long as you’re prepared to travel I’m an artist based in Crickhowell, South Powys, working in film and photography installation. I’m originally from a village in Monmouthshire but studied and worked in the arts in Cardiff for ten years, relocating to Crickhowell in 2011 to take up the post of Arts Development Manager at Arts Alive Wales. Living rurally has fuelled the themes of my work. I love the sense of connection with the seasons, with the animals and the social calendar of the countryside – I’m often to be found at the county shows and point-to-point races. Powys, which covers the majority of mid-Wales, is the largest county in the country and makes up a quarter of the country’s landmass. North to south travel is difficult, as anyone who has driven back from a private view at Oriel Davies, Newtown, on a wet winter’s eve will tell you. Given this environment, access to basic services (schools, healthcare, public transport) can be tricky, let alone access to contemporary culture. Despite this, there is great potential for presenting more contemporary art in mid-Wales, which is home to an impressive range of predominantly mid-career artists, such as Penny Hallas, Stefhan Caddick and Antonia Spowers in the south and Amy Sterly, Stephen West and Shani Rhys James in the north. The incredible landscape of mid-Wales is partly managed by organisations like the Canal & River Trust and the National Trust, who are switched on to the idea that the arts can develop new visitors for their sites. Powys also attracts large audiences for events including the Green Man Festival, Hay Festival and Machynlleth Comedy Festival. These elements are beginning to shape opportunities to bring artists, sites and audiences together. Profiled I was attracted to the area when I attended an excellent seminar, Reclaiming The Rural, in 2008. It was organised by artists Morag Colquhoun and Tessa Waite, based at the Penpont estate in Brecon, which examined contemporary art practice in rural environments. It feels like there’s room for everything here – that artists can move in whatever direction they choose. I’ve experienced mind-altering sound installations in mountain caves, as well as the Monday morning life drawing class in Clyro Village Hall, where you’ll see some of the best drawing anywhere from an amazing group of established artists. Tea and biscuits in Penny Hallas’s studio, Llangattock, near Crickhowell. Credit: Rebecca Spooner I’m currently working on PEAK, a project to develop more platforms for contemporary art in the Black Mountains, inspired by the artists living and working here and by a need to support the artistic diversity and ambition of the region. See Rebecca’s profile on Axisweb > NOTES FROM WALES | AUTUMN 2014 11