As I’ve mentioned, the vast majority of our staff are artists - we had over 180 at the last count – and last year was our biggest ever Cass Art festival, which we held at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, to showcase the results of all their varying artistic practices. The team put together the most incredible display, taking over all five floors of the venue, with only two days to install it! It was a real celebration because, as I always say, the life of an artist isn’t always the easiest and it’s important to show appreciation for our staff and their talent. The festival has highlighted to us the very real need for designated Art Spaces in our stores, because we don’t hold it every single year, so it can’t be the only means by which we offer our staff a platform to exhibit. It’s something we’re fortunate to be able to do that others can’t. The major benefit is that all of our stores are in locations with a strong sense of community, and art is very much a social thread through those communities. We view it as social enterprise; a way of nurturing and celebrating the individuality you’ll find in each of our stores that reflects the local community. They each have their own, very distinct, identities: Bristol has its own flavour; think Bansky, very modern, anti-London ideals, and that’s great. Hampstead, Brighton, Liverpool… It’s important to immerse yourself fully into your business’ locality. Also, you might have noticed that our Art Space signage says that you’re welcome to exhibit your work whether you’re 3 or 103… Another way in which we try to be inclusive of all, and actually we’ve just realised that we might need to update that
everyone to visit our stores, learn a little something if they wish, enjoy the Art Spaces and leave feeling, hopefully, a little inspired. Not everyone has to be a gifted painter or be able to draw – anyone can derive pleasure from pouring paint onto canvas, working with colours, finding their own way and method. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Art is for all.
declaration because that was done when my grandmother, who still draws and paints to this day, turned 100 and so I thought making a point about creativity knowing no limits was relevant. However, she is about to turn 104, and my daughter is already showing an interest at 2, so the parameters obviously need to be revised! Anyone can apply to exhibit in our Art Spaces, it’s totally free and each of our stores has an in-house curator to manage the displays. We don’t see it as our place to be the doyenes of choice or taste, we simply enjoy showing a wide variety of styles and mediums from people of all backgrounds and experience. We also use the space to run workshops and other events, sometimes offering the rooms to the Royal Drawing School on Saturdays to run classes for different age groups. Your customers… Like your galleries, we’re trying to make sure our stores are out there being accessible to all. The joy of that is we do not have a ‘typical’ customer. There’s an open invitation to anyone and
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