The Old Lock Up Gallery in Cromford
- Credit: Archant
Catherine Roth meets artist Rachael Pinks who has turned a historic building in Cromford into an exciting new gallery.
Rachael Pinks knew the type of art gallery in which she wanted to exhibit her work but couldn't find what she was looking for. Her solution was to open her own gallery, neatly tucked away in an historic part of Cromford.
At The Old Lock Up Gallery Rachael curates a series of exhibitions throughout the year featuring contemporary art, sculpture and ceramics. For Rachael, however, each visitor's experience of the gallery is just as important as the artwork on display. She says, 'For me it's more about creating an experience when you step into a gallery. I want the space to be intimate and inclusive, not a space where people feel they can't come in because they can't afford the work - I open my door to everybody.' She continues, 'A gallery is very much about the aesthetics of space. It's more than just hanging pieces of work on a wall and placing the pieces, it's about allowing the pieces of work to sing rather than fight with one another and I'm showing contemporary work that may not otherwise be readily found in this way.'
The first exhibitions at The Old Lock Up began as occasional one night only pop up galleries when Rachael was still using the space as her studio. These proved an instant success with no less than a hundred people turning up to the first exhibition. However, curating the shows was time consuming and, taking place on one evening only, meant a number of people who wished to attend were unable to make it along. Since opening the space as a permanent gallery, Rachael now runs her exhibitions for longer.
Allowing more time for the exhibitions means Rachael is able to give visitors to her gallery the opportunity to explore the various exhibitions in different ways. These include talks from some of the exhibiting artists as well as a monthly art café where Rachael teaches mindfulness skills. She says, 'After exhibitions we will look at the work mindfully. Some people will whizz round an exhibition and tend not to look at the work properly. I help people to learn new skills in how to see and appreciate new pieces and to question any judgements about them.'
In addition to her regular exhibitions, Rachael holds her annual 'Secret Postcard Show' when artists are invited to submit a piece of artwork that is postcard sized. Entry is open to everyone and Rachael finds herself receiving pieces of work from artists all over the world. Each postcard is for sale at just £15 with all funds raised going towards the gallery's running costs as well as the charity 'Arts Emergency'.
As well as a programme of exhibitions throughout the year Rachael also organises regular life drawing classes, a sketching group and a varied workshop programme from book binding, whittling and spoon carving to poetry, print making and expressive painting.
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The building itself dates from the early 18th century when it was one of three terraced cottages before part of the ground floor was converted to the village lock-up in 1790. Now a Grade II listed building the ground floor cells can still be seen today on guided tours organised by Cromford Mills. Rachael says, 'I really like old buildings. I live in a listed building myself and like the history of spaces, which adds to the experience.'
When Rachael decided to turn what had predominantly been her studio for five years into a permanent gallery she spent three months transforming the space and, in doing so, revealed more of the building's history. On first removing the old carpet and then the plywood sheeting that had been nailed to the floor, Rachael had no idea what the flooring was like underneath. Yet after painstakingy chiseling out every last nail she revealed what she believes to be the original wooden floorboards. She also swapped fluorescent lighting for softer spotlights, replaced old storage heaters with new ones and installed a wood-burning stove. Then she painted doors, tidied up the courtyard and planted flowers and shrubs. Rachael says, 'It's about respecting the space and working with it. I like the fact that it's imperfect. Galleries have moved towards the idea of perfect glossy white cubes whereas I like the other side of that and being in a rural area I find it works.'
Rachael studied Art Therapy at university in her thirties, discovering her love of fine art. She says, 'We went on field trips to New York, Paris and St Ives. I came from a really rural background where my parents were both farmers and I'd lived a really simple life. I suddenly thought, "Wow - life's pretty different to how I thought it was!'" Rachael secured a job in social care and within a year she was managing a residential home for people with learning difficulties. Whilst she was there, she still continued with her art. 'I ran art groups for people who lived there and, when I wasn't working, painted in my spare time. But it was not enough. I always had the idea I'd like to be immersed in art!'
At The Old Lock Up Rachael has created not only a contemporary art gallery in the most historic of settings but uses its backdrop to influence the framing of each piece of art.
The Old Lock Up Gallery is open Friday to Sunday, 11am-5pm. For further details visit www.theoldlockupgallery.org