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CHERWELL ARTSNEWS News bulletin March 2006

Banbury Visual Arts Centre Trust (BVACT) Update
Back in early October 2005 you attended a focus group meeting run by Lee Corner from CIDA. The artists that attended were drawn from the Banbury area and had a wide range of experiences. Thank you for attending; I am writing now to advise on the outcome of those meetings.
      As you may recall the group BVACT was set up with the aim of establishing a gallery for Banbury. Lee Corner was appointed with funding from the Arts Council to test the feasibility of this aim. However the outcome of the focus group meetings was that in the main the artists that attended were not supportive of the gallery option. The emphasis that came out of the meetings was on professional development.
      In response to this the consultant advised that we should follow that need in the first instance and see if the gallery option is some thing that would naturally develop at a later stage.
      We are in the process of determining what kind of professional development you as artists want so please email or write to me with your needs. It may be that you would like to come to a 'one 2 one' with another artist for critical feedback on your portfolio, advice on your CV, help and tips on setting up a web site, discuss career development, advice on fundraising or making proposals. These are a few ideas. However we cannot set up all of these options so will need to respond to what you, as an Artist in this area need.
      If you have attended an ARC+ one to one surgery at Ovada in Oxford I would be interested in your feedback.
All the sessions are fully booked at Ovada but If you are interested in attending an ARC+ one to one surgery then visit their website The nearest venue where there are spaces available at the moment is South Hill Park Bracknell. Check out Ovada on for future events in Oxford.

      Christine O'Sullivan     BVACT co-ordinator - 01295 26629, 0781 217 3130
      Attached is a copy of the CIDA report.

TOP  NEWS     
Banbury Visual Arts Centre - A Feasibility Study
December 2005
Conducted by Lee Corner For CIDA
Background -In September 2005 Banbury Visual Arts Centre Trust (BVACT) invited tenders for a feasibility study as follows:
It is a well established fact that there are some three hundred (300) artists within a fifteen mile radius of Banbury (precise information is available). However, there is no provision for a suitable venue which will provide a central, permanent, exhibition space devoted entirely and exclusively to art. This situation should be redressed and to this end the Arts Council and Cherwell District council proposed in 2002 that the feasibility of such a project should be examined.
The consultant will be required to furnish the following information in an appropriate report mode:
1) To determine whether the artists within the specified area would avail themselves of the proposed facility.
2) The number of occasions annually they would wish to exhibit and the likely space required.
3) To what extent the artists would be prepared to commit themselves actively to the maintenance of the gallery's artistic standards. To this end, it is envisaged that a system of selection would be introduced.
4) To determine what additional services prospective members may wish to be available, e.g. shop, café, study facilities.
                  At interview the consultants looked forward to being able to discuss the brief in more detail and to developing a better understanding of its evolution.
This opportunity was provided at the first meeting between Trust members and the consultants on 15th September. Trust members explained the genesis of their thinking, the initial consultative work with artists, the identification of and negotiations on a suitable property, and their work in gaining the support of the local authority and the Arts Council.
At this meeting we also looked for the first time at the financial assumptions which were being used to assess the viability of the identified space. The assumptions were based on an earned income comprised of artists' membership fees; artists' exhibition fees; and a commission on sales. Management and invigilation would be undertaken on a voluntary basis. In addition it was envisaged that the space would be used by schools and other groups for workshops (which might add to the earned income). There had been no allowance made for marketing in the initial period.
It was agreed that public subsidy might be needed to help the initiative get off the ground, but there was a realistic understanding of both the Council's and Arts Council's ability to commit revenue on a long-term basis.
The consultants expressed their concern both about the levels and sources of earned income, but undertook to look into the comparator venues the Trust had in mind, and to provide further information.
At the end of this meeting the Trust learnt the unexpected news that the favoured venue in White Lion Square was no longer available.
      It was therefore agreed to reshape the brief as follows:
* We refocus our activities on the consultation with artists as a first stage and (depending on the outcome of that consultation) assessing available properties as the second stage (as and if applicable)
* The latter of these activities will take into account regeneration agendas and local and regional priorities
* The consultation with artists would take place over 2 days - 5th and 6th October and comprise lunchtime, late afternoon and evening sessions on 5th, and morning and early afternoon sessions on 6th
* We report the outcome of these sessions to the Steering Group on 17th October at which point we'll agree the second stage
* BVACT would recruit artists for these sessions bearing in mind the mix of age, experience, location, artform etc as discussed
* BVACT would identify and book the location (agreed that the Resources Room is a very suitable space)
* Basic refreshments would be available for each meeting
* In addition to the documents already sent, we be sent notes from recent steering group meetings, the constitution, and the financial assumptions prepared by Bob
* Contact details for local authority officers responsible for economic development, regeneration, and property management etc would be provided in the event of moving to the second stage
      Research and Focus Groups
BVACT's Governing Document and ACE Application - supplemented with conversations with Trust members - enabled us to get an understanding of the group and its aspirations.
The Open Studio brochures, website research (, ACE, etc), contact with colleagues in the region, and contact lists provided by BVACT enabled us to build up a picture of visual arts practice and infrastructure.
Other website research (,,,, etc) provided the political and economic context for our study.
For the Focus groups, the Trust identified artists from its list of over 300 built up through local and regional directories and the Open Studios lists.
      The five focus groups took place over two days - 5th and 6th October. 45 artists attended. The discussion was structured as follows:
* As artists what are your most pressing needs?
* How important is showing your work?
* How important is selling your work?
* If Banbury had a space, what sort of space might it be?
* How else might you be supported as artist?
      The session were chaired and led by the consultant.
Needs Analysis
      On 17th October the Trust received the Needs Analysis based on desk research, the focus groups and an initial exploration of comparators.
While there was some disappointment that the consultation exercise had not resulted in a clear mandate to proceed to identifying a building, there was also a commitment to progressing those areas of need and aspiration artists had identified - especially opportunities to come together (networking) and opportunities to learn new skills and information (professional development).
The consultant suggested that, rather than pursuing the original brief, the remaining feasibility monies be used for progressing these outcomes. It was agreed that the consultant should contact the Arts Council to secure agreement to this course of action.
The Arts Council responded positively to this suggestion on 22nd November:
"In principal I am happy for you to use the funds to progress these ideas further, depending on agreeing the process and objectives."
The consultant agreed to facilitate a meeting between the Trust and Ovada and Cherwell District Council to explore working together. That meeting took place on 7th December.
Ovada talked about its role in facilitating the ARC+ project and its relevance to the needs analysis; the forthcoming O3 initiative which would add a further support aspect to the visual arts infrastructure; and the rolling out of Oxford Brookes APD programme.
Cherwell District Council (CDC) talked about support in kind it could offer to the network developments, and - in the context of the Oxfordshire Arts Officers initiatives - training which could be accessed through the Creating the Climate programme
The meeting was positive and productive, and the Trust welcomed the new opportunities being presented.
The Proposal
      As a result of the above, the consultant recommends that
1. The Arts Council supports the Trust in using the remaining feasibility study monies (£3,500) to progress artists' professional development and networking opportunities
2. The support should be in the form of a Trust member working with Ovada and CDC to further develop the ideas outlined above, and to act as the main link into local artists' networks
3. By January 2006 there should be in place an agreement between the Trust and CDC in relation to support in kind (e.g. desk space, postage, copying, computer access etc)
4. By March 2006 at latest, there should be an ARC+ programme of one-to-one surgeries in Banbury
5. By March 2006 at latest, the current Cherwell Artists Network (CAN) email list and the Open Studio email lists should have been contacted and advised to subscribe to the Ovada e-newsletter which provides information on advice, training, events and opportunities (Information was identified as a priority need within the consultation process, but it would be an unnecessary duplication of resources to set up something specifically for Banbury and district)
6. By April 2006 there should have been an ARC+ networking event in Banbury
7. By April 2006 the Trust should have applied for assistance under the Advice for Artist Led Groups initiatives to enable it to review its activities in supporting local artists
8. By April 2006 there should be in place an APD programme (based on both ARC+ and Creating the Climate) for Banbury and district artists for the rest of the 06/07 financial year
9. By April 2006, at latest, artists from the Arts Council's West Midlands and Eastern regions - for whom Banbury an easily accessible location - should be both enabled and encouraged to take part in networking and development events (This recommendation reflects and encourages the natural groupings that are happening over regional boundaries)
      This feasibility study has come at a time when there is both recognition and respect for artist-led initiatives, and support for networking and development.
The Banbury Visual Arts Centre Trust has, through its commitment and dedication proven itself to be the most appropriate body to take forward developments for artists in the area. By harnessing the experience and resources of Ovada (and the ARC+ programme) and Cherwell District Council, the Trust has been able to ensure that the needs and aspirations of artists expressed through the consultation can begin to be met.
The timing does not seem right for a building - the desired outcome of the brief initially. However, this may be something that a more confident and coherent group of artists decide on in due course. And they will have at their disposal the experience and expertise of Trust members who have taken the process this far.
The Trust is an exceptional group of people who deserve the continued support and encouragement of the Arts Council and Local Authorities.
Lee Corner
16th December 2005