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Saturday … Serendipity

November 2, 2013

Last week I went to the Openhand Openspace to celebrate the start of the Whitley Arts Festival.  Although I had passed the building several times over the last few years; I had not realised that the building;  Brock Barracks that had once been the home of the Territorial Army was now an art gallery and artist’s studios.  

Since it had become redundant and before its recent takeover by the local art community it had been homeless accommodation.  Either way, even though it is a grade II listed building and its brickwork; pleasing in a bricky sort of way, it is bleak, fort like and not to be gazed on lovingly.  

However,  the interior is now removed of its institutional trappings,or they have be disguised with a coat of paint or a strategically placed drape.  It has been densely populated with artists and their paraphernalia; although some of the easels and larger artistic installations are little threatening, it really is a pleasant environment.

The exterior will of course be much more difficult to be removed of its ‘military’ look even if indeed this was possible or required.  Its brickwork and threatening towers do have a certain charm that should be maintained.     

However,  I think mother nature has a plan and hers is a softly softly approach.  The Virginia Creeper was doing what it does best, unafraid of any military obstruction finding its way along window ledges and the leaves finding their way under huge oak doors. The local community instead of uniformed soldiers also gave the building a warm lived in look.

Sadly, my meagre and uninformed observations were taken briefly as dusk became darkness.  My little painting is a poor representation of the delicate leaf in the doorway. Nonetheless, what began as a step into into a unknown and shadowy part of Reading;   became a beautiful and memorable experience.  

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2013 10:41 pm

    The building you describe reminds me a lot of what artists in Detroit are doing, using formerly abandoned factories as studio spaces and galleries, like the Russell Industrial Center for example: http://www.russellindustrialcenter.com/. The Russell also has the sort of bleak, intimidating feeling as the military building you describe. Though when I went there for an open house I met a lot of very nice artists who were doing excellent work. I find is fascinating that artists, so willingly sometimes, move into spaces that others wouldn’t even consider.

  2. Geoff permalink
    November 4, 2013 9:11 am

    Seedy, Run down?

    • November 4, 2013 9:29 am

      Opps!! Those in glass houses should not throw stones… I live a short bus ride away from Oxford Road; where there are too some less seemly, run down and seedy … my street for 1 …

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