In February 1960 John Thirtle, F.R.S.A, formed the Winsham Art Group in Jubilee Hall. He was a professional artist, recently moved to the Winsham area, who offered tuition free for a year. He quickly surrounded himself with enthusiastic amateur painters, and started classes in oils. They began with charcoal and white ceiling paper. It was not very long before oils were attempted. The ceiling paper was sized before being brought to class and advice about colours and type of paint and brushes given.
Fifteen members hired the Jubilee Hall for thirteen weekly evenings. Only two of the dozen or so original members had ever put brush to canvas before.
John Thirtle looked upon this class as an experiment, something he had always wanted to bring about. His aim was to teach them to see, to express their individual feelings and whilst appreciating the work of others not to be too influenced by them.
Such was the enthusiasm of the class that his experiment was to exceed all expectations and in 1962 they held their first exhibition in the Jubilee Hall. They were complimented on the originality of their work, which was spontaneous and refreshing.
Tim Spilsbury took over the tuition the following year and the group continued with various people giving talks until 1966 when matters were put on a sound basis with the Winsham Art Club being formed and a committee elected.
A subscription of five shillings a year was charged. Barbara Shrubshall was elected Secretary and continued for twenty years. Doffla Bennett was Treasurer for twenty one years.
After many years of relative stability, the turn of the century saw an acceleration of the changes that had begun to worry the members of the management committee for some time. The simple truth of the matter was that many of the original members who had been the backbone of the club for many years were no longer able to take part due to age and infirmity. This also applied to the regular tutors who had served the club so well over the years.
The Club had to change. Art as a hobby was burgeoning and many more people were painting than ever before. This was a tremendous opportunity for the club, but it also brought with it some problems.
Many smaller art groups were springing up, led perhaps by one artist who provided the tuition. Membership costs were low because they would meet perhaps in the leaders home, with no overheads to speak of. It also meant that members could change groups, or belong to more than one. Nothing wrong with that, except it created problems for relatively large clubs such as Winsham with paid Tutors (not very much!) and charges for the hire of Jubilee Hall.
Winsham Art Club has reacted vigorously to the challenge, in the short term making use of part of a generous bequest of £1,000 from a member, the late Dorothy Almack.
The work of the members covers many styles and techniques
In response, the Club has accepted that if it is to continue to function it must overcome these problems, and has responded with members holding the posts for relatively short periods of two to three years. In earlier years the Officers often held these posts for many years.
The result has been that a lively club has emerged that has responded to a changing world. It continues to hold its Annual Exhibition in the Autumn of each year. Its main weekly meeting is held on a Monday in the Jubilee Hall during the Autumn, Winter and Spring, offering a range of workshops and demonstrations. During the summer months open air painting sessions are held around the Parish. Some also exhibit their work in the 'Winsham Art Gallery' a web based gallery linked to the Parish Web Site. The pictures above are a small example of the range of pictures on show.
John Sullivan August 2012