Top contemporary art gallery for East Devon

WHEN East Devon s only publically-funded art gallery re-opens in Honiton at the end of next month, it will have a top, contemporary look.

WHEN East Devon's only publically-funded art gallery re-opens in Honiton at the end of next month, it will have a top, contemporary look.

The Thelma Hulbert Gallery, in Dowell Street, is currently undergoing major works - thanks to a �68,000 grant from the Arts Council and matched funding from East Devon District Council, which runs the gallery.

Skinners, of Sidmouth, are carrying out the work.

Curator Angela Blackwell is brimming with enthusiasm about the wealth of new opportunities the changes will bring.

Instead of being confined to the upper floor of Elmfield House, the gallery will occupy the whole building. And its opening hours are being extended - Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

"We will be making use of the entire building, which is being transformed into a top, contemporary art gallery, instead of a few rooms upstairs," Angela told the Midweek Herald.

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"The main gallery will be downstairs, in the former ceremony room of the register office, which was originally Thelma Hulbert's studio. It is being tastefully restored."

When the gallery re-opens on May 29, it will boast a project space, a shop area and learning room.

Angela said: "People love it here, because it is an old house. It is quite homely. People have said they don't feel intimidated, because it has got a nice, friendly feel to it.

"The shop area will sell items made by local craftsmen and designers, and refreshments will be available.

"We will run activities and workshops in the learning room, which will also be a dedicated meeting place for our youth group."

Reflecting on the level of financial support given to the improvements, Angela said: "It is because of the success of the gallery they have given us the money.

"They have seen the potential of what it can be and they saw the potential for Honiton."

"Visitors to the gallery bring money into the town and are great for the local economy. Culturally, the gallery is really important to the area, positioned between London and Cornwall.

"It is perfect for art audiences to stop off from trips either way but, more importantly, we are able to bring exhibitions and artists to the gallery that wouldn't usually get shown outside of galleries in the big cities, giving local people the chance to see work of international importance."

All rooms will be accessible for wheelchair users and it is free entry.

The gallery will re-open with Earthscapes, which will feature a new work by Tania Kovats, whose previous work was commissioned for the Natural History Museum!

Running from May 29 to July 10, Earthscapes will explore geology and geography, highlighting the resurgence of interest in landscape-based work.