Artists Gearing Up For October’s Virtual and Physical Spring Fling

Sophie Jarznya and Michael Batey Image credit - Colin Hattersley

Spring Fling is bouncing back – with artists and craft makers across Dumfries and Galloway gearing up for an eight-day digital event.

It is hoped that a range of studios will open their doors for three days but if that is not possible, organisers, Upland Arts Development CIC, have come up with a host of other ways to share and showcase the region’s creative excellence.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of Scotland’s leading open studios weekend, which usually takes place in May.

Among those aiming to welcome visitors in person are visual artist Michael Batey and his ceramicist stepdaughter Sophie Jarzyna.

Right now they are busy making preparations at their base at Claygate and they hope to be exhibiting in the Art Corner Gallery in Sophie’s home town of Langholm.

Like many artists Michael, who is known for his dramatic Turner-esque landscapes and seascapes, faced challenges during Lockdown and is very much looking forward to Spring Fling.

He said: “I had been commissioned to do some paintings of Venice when the travel restrictions came in – and I ended up on the last flight out.
“Sophie and I are both getting ready for Spring Fling. I took a break from participating last year so I could actually spend time going round and seeing other studios – it was brilliant.
“But this year I’m back with a vengeance, and am really looking forward to it, especially as I’ll be exhibiting alongside Sophie.”

Sophie learned her craft using her stepfather’s potter’s wheel and other equipment after he stopped using them in order to concentrate on oil paintings, watercolours and drawing. Sophie is taking part in the event via Upland’s Emerge programme, a bursary and mentoring award aimed at emerging artists and makers in order to help them progress their creative careers.

The event, which runs from 5 to 12 October (with studio openings planned for the last three days) will also feature online studio tours and other events.

This means that all the artists, jewellery makers, ceramicists, photographers and others who had been selected to participate in Scotland’s premier open studios event can be involved if they wish.

There will also be the chance for audiences to develop their artistic skills, with the online workshops by photographers Kim Ayres and Izzy Leach. Izzy, who is a recent graduate of Glasgow School of Art, is another Emerge awardee who is currently being mentored by established locally-based photographer Kim.

As the Covid-19 situation is rapidly changing the organisers and participants will be ensuring that the latest advice is followed in order to ensure people’s safety.

Details of which studios will be open and when will be available on the website at www.spring-fling.co.uk.

Others intending to open their studios include photographer Phil McMenemy and painter Janet O’Donnell in Laurieston and jeweller Alison Macleod in Thornhill.

Joanna Macaulay, Assistant Director for Upland Arts Development CIC, said “We are pleased to be able to hold Spring Fling this year albeit on a smaller scale. The rescheduled event will feature lots of new online activities and aims to recreate the ‘studio’ online with a bigger focus on how work is made and with videos by our artists.
“As government coronavirus guidance is still is changing, we are urging everyone to visit the website to find out IF studios can open and who is able to do so.
“We appreciate that online or digital elements are not for everyone so we will also present Looking In, a series non-digital, non-contact window exhibitions across the region which will allow people to see work without visiting a studio or going online.”

The Looking In venues will include The Look Out, Langholm, The Whitehouse Gallery, Kirkcudbright, Number 11 in Wigtown and hopefully more.

Spring Fling normally sees around 90 studios across Dumfries and Galloway welcoming about 12,000 visitors from all over the UK and beyond. In response to this and the Covid-19 situation, organisers hope that local audiences will benefit the most from the open studios but hope that the strong virtual event will appeal to wider audiences.

The 2020 event will build on the success of May’s SF | At Home – our digital event that attracted interest from people all round the world.

It is hoped that Spring Fling as we know it will be return in May 2021.