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The Arts are Alive in Crickhowell

Arts Alive Wales provides inspirational courses and workshops from its base in Crickhowell, which is a short walk from our boathouse. We asked Creative Director, Rebecca Spooner, to outline the charity’s activities, and give us a taste of workshops that are taking place this year.

Photo: Part of the Arts Alive Wales team: Creative Director Rebecca Spooner and Chief Executive Justine Wheatley

What is Arts Alive?

Arts Alive Wales is an educational arts charity supported by the Arts Council of Wales. Our light and airy studio is based in Crickhowell where we run art and craft courses throughout the year, including Life Drawing, Ceramics, Textiles, Painting, Basket Making and many more. The courses are relaxed and friendly, led by professional tutors and suitable for complete beginners as well as those with experience.

Arts Alive works across the Black Mountains region delivering high quality, creative projects with a variety of partners including schools, homeless hostels, housing associations and mental health charities.

I’m the Creative Director and oversee the public programme at the studio as well as developing Peak – an exciting initiative which creates contemporary arts projects in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. Most recently we’ve been working with artists, writers and musicians to create new art outdoors in unusual places. This landscape is an incredible inspiration to artists.

Does the Mon & Brec canal feature in any projects?

One of our recent Peak projects, Limelight, involved a collaboration with the Canal & River Trust and two artists, Rob Smith and Charles Danby based in Newcastle. The project researched and responded to the working landscape of canals, quarries, tramways and kilns that serviced the lime industry of the Black Mountains, which in turn fed the nation’s heavy industries. The artists used digital means to bring reflections on this history to urban audiences by streaming live illuminations at nightfall from Llangattock Limekilns in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park to Cardiff, as part of the Cardiff Contemporary arts festival.

We were recently involved in the Canal & River Trust open day at Llangattock and took our Horsebox Studio with an intriguing collection of vintage books, maps, objects and films related to the lime industry and canals in the Black Mountains.


Do you have a favourite spot on the canal?

One of my favourite spots, just above the canal is the Craig Y Cilau national nature reserve and Llangattock Escarpment. It feels like another world, full of rare plants, old quarry tramroads and caves, with ravens and red kites circling overhead. It’s a very special place and I could spend hours immersed in that landscape. We’re working at Craig Y Cilau with an artist called Allen Fisher who is responding to Y Waen Ddu, a rare peat bog, by creating large scale paintings on site. The BBC Connected Studio has been filming Allen battling the elements and we’ll be hosting a public event with Allen at the Arts Alive Wales studio in Crickhowell on Saturday 10th June.


What courses are coming up at Arts Alive Wales this year? 

During the summer term, we’re introducing a new Drawing & Painting course with artist Susan Milne on Wednesday mornings throughout May and June.

If you have a little longer to enjoy the Black Mountains I would recommend one of our popular five-day summer schools in life drawing, pottery or printmaking. We’re pleased to welcome artist and illustrator Hannah Firmin to the studio to run this year’s Printmaking summer school from Saturday 5th to Wednesday 9th August. Hannah is well-known for her wonderful woodcut prints of the local area.

If you can’t escape for that long, try our Life Drawing class with artist Tony Tribe, held once a month on a Saturday (27th May, 24th June). It’s the perfect chance to improve your skills or try something new while on holiday.

All of these courses can be booked online or by contacting Arts Alive Wales, 01873 811579

A big thank you to Rebecca Spooner for encouraging us all to find our creative sides. We are used to painting, though it tends to be on a rather larger scale!