The St Barbe Open Exhibition was held for the first time in 1999 and 21 exhibitions later it is firmly established as a highlight in the local arts calendar: a celebration of the incredible array of talent found in Hampshire and Dorset. Each year hundreds of artworks are submitted to be considered by the panel of professional artists who select the exhibition and award the prizes. St Barbe is proud to provide this showcase for the wonderful creations of our local artistic community.
Despite two years of lockdowns and disruption the St Barbe Open has continued and returns this spring for its 21st showing. In the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 and 2021 the Open has given local artists a chance to display the fruits of their creativity during enforced periods of isolation. Last year works referenced the challenges of lockdown and were inspired by the wonders of nature that we have the good fortune to be surrounded by here in the New Forest.
The exhibition is open to any artist, amateur or professional, who can submit up to two paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics or textile works. Usually around 80 are selected and shown to stunning effect in St Barbe’s national-standard galleries. There is no theme and the judges only selection criterion is quality. A wide range of subjects and media is guaranteed including the beautiful, the strange and the humorous.
Prizes sponsored by Kate Welsh, Coastal Gallery and Beaulieu Fine Arts are awarded for the best print, abstract and work by a non-professional artist, while the Lymington Business Centre Award gives all exhibition visitors a chance to vote for the People’s Choice prize.
For the last three years the museum has also run a Young Artist’s Open which welcomes entrants from a few months to eighteen years old to exhibit alongside the adult entries, encouraging our young people to get creative from their earliest years. Long-time St Barbe supporter Gordon Young generously offers four ‘Ted Marsh Awards’ in cash and artists materials in memory of the museum’s founding chairman.