Gardens provide frame for picture perfect weekend

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MORE than 300 artists will display their work under canvas in the Botanical Gardens this weekend.

Over nine years, Art in the Gardens has grown to become a firm fixture on the Sheffield calendar for the first weekend of September.

Organisers believe it is the largest outdoor art exhibition in the north of England, featuring not only the talents of artists, but also a wide range of craft makers. Attendances tend to vary between 12,000 and 15,000 depending on the weather.

Despite the economic climate, there is a waiting list among professional artists who are keen to secure a stall where visitors see and have the chance to buy their work.

But the weekend also offers a chance for amateurs to display their ambitions, notably in the portrait competition, which this year features Sheffield Olympic high diver Monique Gladding.

Artists from across the region have been painting a portrait of Monique from a photograph for the Portraits of Distinction competition. She will be at the show early on Sunday afternoon to judge the entries.

Previous subjects for the contest include actors Bradley Walsh and Bruce Jones, radio presenter Toby Foster, singer Dave Berry, artist Joe Scarborough, BBC weather presenters Paul Hudson and Lisa Gallagher and, last year, the Earl and Countess of Scarborough.

Monique said it was “an absolute privilege” to be invited to take part. “Having studied art at school, my passion still continues and it is something I love and use in my downtime to relax and unwind.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the different interpretations from the artists and to judge the event.”

Art director Sharon Gill, who took over from Anne Barron in 2008, said the quality of exhibits was growing every year and there was a selection process. Artists joining for the first time are Deborah Sweeney and Jill Ray.

Praising the army of volunteers who ensure the event takes place, Sharon added: “It’s a family day out in a beautiful garden setting. It is full of really talented and creative people with their bespoke artwork, sculptures, crafts, jewellery, ceramics and furniture. It is stuff you are not going to find in one place in Meadowhall or the city centre.”

Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said: “It’s great that Sheffield is able to attract such talented and creative artists to the city. There’s so much to see and do. It will be a fantastic event that the whole family can enjoy.”

Among the artists is Sheffield’s Anthony Bennett, who will be displaying his sculpture, The Great Omi, a life-sized sculpture of Britain’s first completely tattooed man, in the Botanical Gardens’ bear pit.

Organisers are keeping their fingers crossed for the weather and already have an eye on celebrating next year’s tenth anniversary.

A preview evening tomorrow (Friday) allows guests to meet premier artists and to buy pieces. Admission is £6 for two adults, including a glass of wine. Tickets can be obtained at the gatehouse gift shop off Clarkehouse Road and from the Welcome to Sheffield visitor services office in Surrey Street.

Art in the Gardens will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am to 5.30pm. Admission for adults is £6, children under 16 free.

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