After the last event in 2022, the ever-popular biennial Dorset Art Weeks returns (May 25 – June 9) with over 250 venues, as well as activities and exhibitions celebrating the best of fine art, craft and making across the county.

There is so much to see during this year's Dorset Art Weeks. Discover the county’s creative community, featuring contemporary works by over 500 artists and makers showcasing new work in open studios, group shows, galleries and events. It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists and visit the creative source whilst exploring Dorset’s delightful villages, towns, coast and countryside.

Dorset’s stunning landscape holds many stories, providing boundless inspiration for generations of creatives. A visit to an artist's studio will always provoke curiosity and conversation. From the rolling downland of the west and north, to the rugged coast of the south; journey around the distinct regions and history of the county to discover a rich tapestry of expression and diversity in many artforms that thrive here. Dorset Art Weeks is the perfect opportunity to make unexpected discoveries and experience first-hand the practice and process behind many talented visual artists and makers.

This year’s event also marks the opening of The Sherborne (Venue 1), Dorset’s major new venue for the arts, where Dorset Visual Arts is the lead arts partner. Housework, curated by Amanda Wallwork, weaves together elements of Sherborne House’s previous incarnations and marks the start of an ongoing and evolving programme of engaging cultural activity. As well as a specially curated show in the Georgian and medieval parts of the Grade I listed building, there will also be a new sculpture trail with a variety of works in the terraced grounds, curated by Sandy Kirkby.

Alongside artists’ studios and exhibitions, there is a special event programme where visitors can take part in workshops, talks and other activities.


Great British Life: Knapweed Spyway by Paul Jefferis one of the pieces at The Instinct of Hope exhibition at Durlston Country Park, Venue 173. Knapweed Spyway by Paul Jefferis one of the pieces at The Instinct of Hope exhibition at Durlston Country Park, Venue 173. (Image: Supplied by

The Instinct of Hope at Durlston Country Park 

As part of this year’s Dorset Art Weeks, Dorset Visual Arts (DVA) has produced and curated a thought-provoking exhibition in the stunning clifftop setting of the Fine Foundation Gallery at Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve (NNR) near Swanage.

Taking its title and inspiration from the poem by John Clare (1793 –1864), The Instinct of Hope features new work from selected artists living or working in the county, reflecting the rich and diverse character of Dorset. Submissions for this specially curated exhibition were invited, with a location or research-specific focus that encapsulates notions of wellbeing, repair, rewilding as well as access to nature. It features pieces by local artists who work with biodiversity, the environment or a location-based practice or project.

As we acknowledge the challenges and threats to the natural world at this time, The Instinct of Hope will feature a selected range of works that respond to a distinctive aspect, or elements, of Dorset’s unique landscape. Home to an incredible but fragile bounty of natural wonder, Dorset is a living mosaic of diverse habitats, for a whole range of flora and fauna (some incredibly rare), which includes chalk streams and downland; veteran trees and ancient woodland; herb-rich grasslands and precious remnants of the Great Heath; wood pasture and wildflower meadows; sand dune systems and saline lagoons, as well as larger elements which inform ecology and biodiversity such as the underlying and shifting geology, especially on the coast.  

As both Dorset Visual Arts and Dorset Council declare a climate and ecological emergency, this exhibition seeks to raise awareness of the inspiring elements and wonder which make the county so unique. It also asks us to reflect on the many reasons why we should cherish, value and celebrate it. And fiercely protect it for future generations.


Great British Life: Hall & Woodhouse Brewery Tap Venue 223. Hall & Woodhouse Brewery Tap Venue 223. (Image: Supplied by

Brewing Creative Talent 

To coincide with this year’s event, Dorset Visual Arts has supported a residency and commission opportunity for Dorset artists with Dorset Art Week’s headline sponsor, Hall & Woodhouse. Shortlisted artists were commissioned to respond to the heritage, history and working environment of Hall & Woodhouse, who have been brewing beer in Dorset since 1777. As part of the residency, artists were invited to produce one work, or a small series of works, reflecting on the life of Hall & Woodhouse brewery and its staff through engagement and observation; working both on-site and back in the studio. 

‘An opportunity like this can be particularly suitable for emerging or early career artists, including students attending college or university in the county, as well as recent graduates,’ says Paul Newman, DVA’s creative director. ‘It provides an important early window for their talent along with the support of Dorset Visual Arts to present their work to the public.’

The artwork was selected by a panel including Hall & Woodhouse chairman Anthony Woodhouse. The family-owned brewery, who create their range of Badger Beers at their state-of-the-art HQ at Blandford St Mary, have been an important long-term supporter of Dorset Art Weeks and with 44 Hall & Woodhouse owned hostelries across Dorset they are an ideal partner for the event as visitors make their way around the county. The residency opportunity ran as part of Dorset Art Weeks 2022 and was such a success that DVA and Hall & Woodhouse decided to run it again this year.

The artworks produced will be presented at the launch of Dorset Art Weeks 2024 and will then be exhibited at Venue 223 - The Brewery Tap, their HQ on Bournemouth Road, Blandford Forum.


Great British Life: Carved bowl by ceramists Emily Myers who is exhibiting with Liz Somerville at Venue 102. Carved bowl by ceramists Emily Myers who is exhibiting with Liz Somerville at Venue 102. (Image: Supplied by

Plan your visits 

With so much to see, it's always useful to find out which artists you want to visit and see what else is going on nearby. To help visitors get to venues, this year’s event has three main ways to discover who is taking part and how to find them. 30,000 copies of the free Dorset Art Weeks Guide 2024 are being distributed to cultural venues across Wessex, including galleries, museums, libraries and tourist information points. Browse the guide at leisure and discover a wide array of artforms using the maps to plan the perfect day out. The Dorset Art Weeks App, available for iPhone and Android, helps visitors to navigate to venues. You can also create a ‘favourites’ list, find nearby venues and search for venues via an interactive map. Full venue details can also be found on the DAW website, along with an online flipbook of the Guide and an online event calendar.

In a new initiative for 2024, Dorset Art Weeks has improved venue access information by grading access requirements along with clearer information to help all visitors. Venues will be more than happy to assist visitors to get the most out of their visits. And in the interests of keeping carbon footprints low, you can find details of sustainable methods of visiting venues - such as bus, train and SUSTRANS cycle route information - in the ‘Explore DAW’ section of the Guide.


Great British Life: One of John Makepeace's pieces of furniture, see more like this at his open house and garden event.One of John Makepeace's pieces of furniture, see more like this at his open house and garden event. (Image: Supplied by

Fabulous Furniture, Glorious Garden 

Within the 500 plus artists and makers taking part in Dorset Art Weeks is a huge variety of artforms and media. As well as painting, printmaking and sculpture, there’s photography, glasswork, metalwork, woodwork, jewellery, ceramics, textiles, installation, new commissions… and more!

Open studios provide a unique opportunity for people to meet the artist and to engage with the process and skills behind the art. It also allows an exclusive glimpse of creative spaces and inspiration. Witness the creative process in action in a relaxed atmosphere, providing an informal gallery experience where you can also buy directly from the artist or maker.

One of the DVA-supported events, on May 26, features the renowned international furniture maker John Makepeace. Along with his wife Jenny Makepeace, a talented horticulturalist, they invite you to visit their inspirational historic house and gardens in Beaminster, which has featured in many publications and on BBC Gardeners’ World.

The house has many examples of John’s acclaimed furniture, including prototype chairs from previous commissions, and a selection of contemporary artworks by internationally acclaimed artists and makers. There are four areas of the garden which include Jenny’s colourful potager, cleft oak fruit cage, glasshouse and straw bale constructed retreat. This adjoins John’s magnificent grass gardens, rolling lawns, sculptures and topiary. John will give a talk about his furniture commissions and share details about an exciting house being built in Guernsey.  

Visitors are welcome to spend time drawing in the grounds with their own equipment, although pencils and postcards are available. Bring a picnic to eat in the garden if you wish.

Details: Farrs, Whitcombe Road, Beaminster, DT8 3NB (May 26, 2 – 5pm). Entry £10, children £5 in aid of Dorset Visual Arts Charity. Talks at 2.30pm and 4pm