The balloons and bunting are out in Staithes this week, corks are popping and there’ll be ten candles on the cake as Staithes Gallery celebrates 10 years since it opened in 2006.
Owners Al and Dave Milnes from York first came to Staithes on holiday with their children.
We fell in love with the place - the whole coastline is spectacularAl Milnes
“We fell in love with the place,” says Al.
“This whole coastline is spectacular.
“It was easy to see why it attracted the colony of artists who came here at the end of the 19th Century.”
Attracted by the quality of the light reflecting off the North Sea and the picturesque huddle of cottages sheltering under the towering cliffs, this group of young and innovative Impressionists, now known as the Staithes Group, arrived courtesy of the newly built railway to depict the working life of fisher-folk in what was then a busy port.
The railway has long gone but Staithes and the surrounding area continues to be a magnet for artists.
“The quality and variety of contemporary art being made here is astonishing,” adds Al.
“We felt there should be a gallery in the village to display and celebrate it.”
They bought the Smugglers, a large Georgian shop, no longer in use, right in the heart of Staithes.
The building needed a lot of work and kept the Milnes family busy for several years. It had originally been two or even three separate buildings, joined together at different times in its history.
“We kept finding things that told us a little more about the building’s story,” Al said.
“Remains of a bread oven from when it was a bakery, menu cards from its days as a café, a clapperboard from when it had been used as a location for a TV programme.”
Most exciting of all was finding a false wall in the cellar that concealed a tunnel leading under neighbouring houses to the beck – a clue perhaps as to how the building got its name!
In the meantime they got to know some of the artists working in the area who supported their dream to open a gallery in the village.
“They suggested an opening exhibition to raise funds for Staithes and Runswick RNLI,” said Al.
“We set a date – April 13, 2006 – which was a spur to get on, finish the building renovation, hang some pictures and open the doors.”
Since then, the gallery has gone from strength to strength, providing a platform for contemporary art inspired by the spectacular moorlands and coastline of North Yorkshire, attracting artists of distinction working in a wide variety of styles and media.
It has hosted three further exhibitions in aid of Staithes and Runswick RNLI; plus countless solo and joint shows displaying work by a range of distinguished artists; as well as Celebrating the Sea, an exhibition in 2014, bringing work by members of the Royal Society of Marine Artists to Staithes for their first ever exhibition in the north of England.
Work by Staithes Gallery regular artists, including Rob Shaw, Ian Burke, David Curtis ROI RSMA and Paul Czainski will be on show throughout the anniversary celebrations.
The gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm.
Visit Staithes Gallery, High St, Staithes, TS13 5BH. Go online at www.staithesgallery.co.uk to find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call call 01947 841840, or mobile 07972 012464 for any more information.