Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange celebrate 60 years of twinning

The Coventry Dresden Art Exchange exhibition Condition Humaine in Coventry Cathedral’s Lady Chapel will run from 31st May to 30th June, (10am to 4pm), with two Coventry artists and two Dresden artists.(Entry free).

The exhibition was first shown at the Kreuzkirche in Dresden in February 2019 to launch the 60th Anniversary of the twinning of Coventry and Dresden in Dresden. This is the seventh collaborative exhibition with Coventry and Dresden artists that the association has organised in as many years, where peace and reconciliation is expressed through the practical work of a collaboration of friends by understanding the different histories and culture of our cities and learning from one another.

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Image: Condition Humaine and exhibition, Kreuzkirche Dresden. February 2019.

John Yeadon, whose initiative set up the organisation, explains. “This is Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange’s first themed exhibition. Condition Humaine is concerned with human vulnerability, courage, struggle and resilience; qualities both cities share.”

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Image: Cry, Lino cut. John Yeadon 1969.

On Saturday, June 1st Coventry Spires Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus and Neuer Chor Dresden will together celebrate 60 years of twinning between these two cities that were so ravaged by war. The choirs and orchestra will perform in a joint concert in at 4.30pm Coventry Cathedral, celebrating peace, reconciliation and friendship.

Tickets available from ticketsource.co.uk/spiresmusic

The Spires website www.spiresmusic.com

The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is a personal initiative of John Yeadon with the Dresden artist Jean Kirsten in 2011. The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange programme seeks to develop dialogue and communication between artists from the cities of Coventry and Dresden. The aim is to create opportunities by establishing collaborative partnerships of exchanges, exhibitions, educational projects and forums.

Other events associated with the exhibition Condition Humaine events will include:

Meet the Artists, Lady Chapel, Sunday 2nd June 12 to 1pm.

Lisa Gunn, Artist Talk: Exposed, the disabled artist. Wednesday 5th June, 6.30 to 8.30pm, West End Nave, Coventry Cathedral.

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Poster image Fraunkirche Dresden.

Artist Spotlight: Andy Farr

Warwickshire-based artist Andy Farr has been working with the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham on a moving project which documents a number of individual’s experience of PTSD. The series of paintings created during this project will be on display at the Lanchester Gallery from 7th March – 5th April. We’ve interviewed Andy ahead of his solo show to find out more about him as an artist, and what inspired him to create this thought-provoking body of work.

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(Image by John Whitmore).

When did you first get into Art Andy?

Good question. Art was always my passion growing up, but then school talked me out of doing A-Level and my path went in other directions until just over 10 years ago. Both my sons are good artists and their passion drew me back in. About a year later I was seriously ill and while in hospital decided that if I survived that commuting down to London wasn’t how I saw my future. After six months recovery I handed my notice in and to be honest I wasn’t quite sure how the future would pan out. Fortunately, I met a wonderful artist called Caroline Hulse who ran painting courses. She must have seen something in my early daubs as she acted as my mentor over my first summer of my second life. Encouraging me to be more experimental and bold. At that point I assumed that I would at some point return to the world of marketing but ten years later I am very much a full-time artist.

 

Tell us how you came to work on the project for your forthcoming solo show “The Twisted Rose and Other Lives” which explores post-traumatic stress and the process of recovery.

The Twisted Rose project evolved out of the work I did for my MA. I used the MA as an opportunity to look back and try to make sense of events from my own childhood. My father was bipolar, and it is only recently that I’ve come to realise how profoundly his illness impacted my own being. I found that process to be cathartic and came to realise that the works resonated with others who had had direct experience of mental issues. The actual idea of working with people who have experienced PTSD came from Gary Winslip one of the lecturers at the IMH (Institute of Mental Health) in Nottingham. He connected the dots between an earlier project I’d done commemorating WW1 and my interest in mental health. One of the legacies of the War was many thousands left suffering from with what was then called “shell shock”, what we now term post-traumatic stress disorder. With the promise of exhibition space from the IMH, Coventry University and Lancashire County Council I was able to secure some Arts Council Funding.

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What process do you go through when you are creating a new piece of work?

For this project my process has had to change radically. Each painting has to be created in a way that respects the feelings and vulnerabilities of the subject. The start point has been a dialogue with the person whose experience I’m conveying. That discussion is focussed on how the emotions and feelings that their experience has evoked rather than the details of the traumatic event. That conversation might be over several months via email, or face to face, or both. From that dialogue ideas for metaphors or ways of expressing their story will start to emerge. From there my usual process of seeking images, colours, textures will start to take over. For several of the paintings the person has agreed to be photographed and the resultant image could be described as a “narrative portrait”. This final step of being present in a painting, and then being in public, is a significant one and so far proved to be cathartic for those involved. Unlike other paintings the degree of responsibility felt by me, the artist, to the person I’m painting is huge. I have never felt the same level of trepidation, as I have during this project, when sending or showing the first version of a painting to someone before. So far the responses have not just been positive but deeply moving as well.

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Have you been inspired by any other artists in the past?

I’m a fan of painters whose work has an underlying narrative. From Hopper through to Justin Mortimer and a number of Eastern European artists such as Daniel Pitin and Miriam Vlaming. I like their combination of figurative elements with more abstract mark making.

 

What’s next for you as an artist following your show at the Lanchester Gallery?

The Lanchester Exhibition will be followed by four more shows of this work, two in London, the first straight after Coventry in April, and then Newcastle in May/June and Lancaster in October/November. For the Lancaster show I’ll be working with more people to add additional works to the exhibition. The second London show will be broader encompassing some of my earlier work as well. If more opportunities arise then the work might pop up elsewhere as well! I’m also starting to do some work with psychotherapists to see if there is learning from my work that can be used more widely within therapy. Provisionally we have a cross disciplinary seminar planned for Coventry later in March. However, I am also looking forward to doing some less intense subject matter … I have some ideas but they won’t crystalise until I’ve finished working on the four new painting for the Coventry Exhibition.

Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

To find out more about my work people can go to my website www.andyfarr.com which has a lot of background to my work. I also post work in progress on Instagram @andyfarrart

The Man Inside

Our 2018 Highlights

As 2018 is coming to an end, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back at some fond memories of the year. The city has once again enjoyed an incredible mix of visual arts and although we were sad to say goodbye to the CET Pop-Up back in June, it will definitely leave a lasting legacy in the city.

So here our some of our highlights from 2018:

Coventry University Drawing Prize at the CET Building (March)

The annual drawing prize is ran by the faculty of Arts and Humanities and is open to all students and staff of the uni, both past and present. The exhibition was held at the CET, and although called “Drawing Prize” a diverse selection of media was exhibited.

The winner was Michala Gyetvai with this beautiful oil pastel drawing titled “threads”. Michala is currently studying an MA in painting at Coventry Uni and is also well known for contemporary landscape embroidery work.

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“I Migrated” at The Belgrade by Maokwo, founded my Coventry artist Laura Nyahuye in celebration of International Women’s Day (March)

This moving exhibition told the story of migrant women through photography, poetry and handmade body adornments. The exhibition gave an insight into inner struggles, fears, loss, joys and triumphs and aimed to challenge perceptions. The event was opened by Lord Mayor of Coventry and featured some incredibly touching, thought-provoking talks, poetry, music and dance.

Following the event, we interviewed Laura Nyahuye to delve a little deeper into her as an artist and the incredible work that she is doing to empower women.

Read this interview here.

 

John Yeadon “What’s the meaning of this?” at the CET Building (May)

Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon opened his solo show “What’s the meaning of this?” in the Newsroom at the CET Building back in May. This featured a retrospective view of paintings he produced in the 1980s, which, at the time, were deemed shocking and controversial, alongside a collection of his more recent work. This exhibition encouraged the viewer to reflect on the political, ideological, social and economic changes that have taken place in this period.

His selection of older work featured paintings from his “Dirty Tricks” exhibition at The Herbert Gallery in the 80s. A collection large-scale of grotesque-realist paintings, which at the time were branded in the press as “Smut not Art”.

In stark contrast to this, John’s idealistic landscape paintings, from his more recent “Englandia” series were on display. This collection of work challenges myths, preconceptions and contradictions of national identity through landscapes. Then alongside these, the exhibition featured series of digital assisted paintings of Sellafield Nuclear Power Station. The paintings reflected his interest in technology and yet also the way in which 20th century technology dates so fast and so badly.

We chatted to John before the exhibition opened.

Take a read of his artist interview here.

 

Our first ever live #ArtChatCov at The Pod (September)

We teamed up with The Pod Café for a Supper Club back in September, for our first ever live #ArtChatCov. This sell-out event was a wonderful social evening where artists and arts organisations from the city came together for a night of great food, live music and good company. Birmingham based electronic duo EIF performed an amazing live set while people shared delicious vegan dishes sourced from local produce. We also got to find out more about the social activist movements that come under the umbrella of The Pod Café, including The Time Union – a city-wide time bank and Food Union which focuses on connecting people through conversation and action around food. It was a wonderful relaxed evening, connecting like-minded individuals in this absoulte gem of the city. We hope to run some more events like this over the next year.

(For those who haven’t heard of it, #ArtChatCov is our monthly networking TweetChat connecting artists and arts organisations across Coventry. Find out more about it here).

 

Coventry First Thursday at Classroom (October)

A selection of Coventry-based artists were selected for this exhibition for their positive contribution to the perception of the visual arts both inside and outside the city. Upstairs featured a selection of abstract painting, figurative work, photography and digital work. Then as you entered the basement, the smoke-machine bellowed as you explored room by room which hosted installations, moving image work, and painting in this wonderful atmospheric setting. The opening night was absolutely packed and we really loved the way that this amazing space was used!

(Which leads us to our next highlight…)

We Are Luminous launch at Holyhead Basement (November)

We Are Luminous is a Moving Image forum set up my Coventry Artspace trustee and artist Hannah Sutherland along with Artspace studio holder and digital artist Carol Breen. For the launch they put on a cracking event in the basement at of Holyhead Studios ahead of bonfire night. This took inspiration from Cai Guo-Qiang’s One Night Stand: Explosion Event (2013), Andrew Waits Boom City (2012), Shunji Iwai’s episode of the Japanese drama series titled “Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?”

Once again this atmospheric space was filled with an exciting selection of work from moving image and new media artists based from in and around the city. Holographic glasses were handed out, which gave each piece of work a whole new dimension. The garden was open, and sparklers were lit, drinks were poured whilst ambient electronic sounds from TOPS OFF (Laura Coffin and Jack Carr) echoed around the basement. What a night!

Backbone at Artspace Arcadia Gallery (November)

During the final month or The Art of Coventry programme, artists from The Shared Collective worked alongside curator Anna Douglas exploring “The Art of Curation”. During this 3-day workshop they worked with images of older women by the famous docu-photographer Shirley Baker. Each artist chose a photograph which they felt most connected to, and responded with poetry or their own written piece. The final result was an immersive audio/visual installation displayed at Artspace Arcadia Gallery. This enclosed space was filled with a sea of rose petals, leading to life-size images projected onto the far wall, with the voice recordings of each artist’s response exploring women’s identity in today’s society.

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Coventry Open at The Herbert Gallery and Museum

Over 300 pieces of work were submitted to this year’s Coventry Open, and these were whittled down to 99 artworks, which are all currently on display at The Herbert Gallery until 24th February.

The exhibition features a wonderful diverse showcase of talented artists from across the region with a wide range of media from painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and textiles. If you haven’t already been along yet, we couldn’t recommend this enough!

The judges winner was contemporary painter Jack Foster, for his painting Kite. You can vote for your own winner and the people’s choice winner will be announced when the exhibition closes!

 

 

 

Goodbye CET – thank you for the memories

So the time has come for us to say our sad goodbye to the CET Building. With over 20,000 visitors in the past year, this pop-up cultural hub will leave a lasting legacy in the city. We’re gutted to see it go, but want to share some of our fondest memories of exhibitions we’ve visited there.

The inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art – the biggest art festival the city has ever scene – the CET Building made the perfect venue for the Biennial’s central exhibition.

This was our first visit to the CET, since it re-opened it’s doors. It was wonderful exploring the building in it’s stripped-back state, each artwork responding to it’s setting and reacting to the exhibition theme of “The Future”.

Here’s our round-up of the inaugural Biennial last year.

Coventry-based artist, researcher and photographer Jonny Bark’s “Inhabiting Edgelands” became a dominant installation in the press hall, which was a result of the artists journey of exploration of these derelict, transitional areas of land in urban landscapes.

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The CET Building held the 2018 Coventry University Annual Drawing Prize, which is open to all students and staff both past and present, across all faculties and disciplines. Since the first competition in 2010 the Drawing Prize has received wider recognition and prestige over the years with entrants from locally based artists to ex-students as far as London.

 

This year’s show certainly did not disappoint and viewers got to vote on who you felt deserved to win. The 2018 winner was Michala Gyetvai with this oil pastel drawing titled “Threads”.

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The Exposure Photography Festival of work by 2nd year BA Photography students at Coventry University was another huge and impressive event. The festival encompassed six exhibitions exploring themes of space and place, community participation, observation of society, the use of colour, an exploration of senses and personal relationships. What a great showcase of the level of talent that is coming from the university.

We loved viewing the highlights of the 2017 Spon Spun festival, and reminiscing the work we explored when we visited the art trail last year. Some took on a whole new dimension in the setting of the building, particularly this beautiful instillation by Min-Kyung Kim “Rain of Memory”, lit up to create overlapping shadows against the back wall.

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The CET hosted the preview of the Urban Culture Street Art Festival, which took place across the city on 9th – 10th June. We were gutted to miss the event, but loved getting along to see all the impressive urban art, which then decorated the walls of the derelict basement room following the preview event.

Award winning artist Sam Belinfante was a visiting artist for “The Art of Coventry” Programme, ran by Coventry Artspace. His famous audio/visual installation “Accordian” was installed in the atmospheric press hall, which lent itself perfectly to this work of art. Echoing sounds came out of the darkness, while the two films of the accordion player rolled simultaneously in their two locations, viewable through either side of the screens.

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We especially loved viewing John Yeadon’s solo show “What’s the meaning of this?” a retrospective view of paintings he produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work. We interviewed him prior to it’s opening.

We were intrigued at how his paintings deemed shocking and controversial in the 1980s would be received again in the city 34 years later. Yeadon encouraged the viewer to reflect on political, ideological, social and economic changes over the past three decades. People travelled from across the UK to visit this outstanding show of grotesque-realist paintings from earlier years in stark contrast to landscape paintings from his more recent Englandia series, displayed alongside images of nuclear power stations.

 

We have so many happy memories from the past year, and are sad to see it go, but the emergence of this pop-up space created such a buzz for the city’s visual arts scene. It has supported and nurtured Coventry’s grass roots talent and encouraged artists to explore and engage with spaces outside traditional gallery venues. May it’s legacy live on as the artists of Coventry continue to push boundaries in discovering unusual exhibition spaces.

Farewell CET and thank you for the memories!

 

What’s the Meaning of This? – John Yeadon at 70

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Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his solo show at the CET Building on 18th May, and it will feature a selective retrospective view of paintings produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work.

John Yeadon looks back to his 1984 Dirty Tricks exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and compares this work with his recent paintings.

Thirty-four years ago this controversial exhibition of Yeadon’s grotesque realist, large allegorical ‘history paintings’ was received with alarm and pleasure. At the high point of AIDS paranoia and gay ‘blame’, Yeadon’s forthright, radical, critical, ‘in your face’ paintings challenged preconceptions on sexuality and society.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph declared that it was ‘Smut Not Art’, however the exhibition increased the attendance at the Herbert by 40%. Works from this exhibition were later that year exhibited at the Pentonville Gallery in London and the British Art Show of 1985. The Arts Council of Britain also bought a version of ‘The Last Chilean Supper’ one of the ‘lavatory wall smut’ paintings so derided in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and John Yeadon was featured by Emmanuel Cooper in his book the Sexual Perspective/Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West, published in 1986.

This exhibition not only compares Yeadon’s paintings of the 1980s with his recent work but asks the viewer to reflect on the political, ideological, social and economic changes. These past struggles and contradictions of the 80s that generated Yeadon’s work might also be relevant today.

Have things changed – is society more tolerant, more open minded, more liberal today? As Coventry approaches the City of Culture, is the city more enlightened, less provincial?

Now at the age of 70, this is the second of three ‘retrospective’ exhibitions John Yeadon is having during the next 12 months.

Three Witches, Feb – April, The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park.

What’s the Meaning of This, Yeadon at 70. May – June. Newsroom Gallery, CET Building, Coventry.

70 X 70, Incorporating, Unbelievable Stories and Fearful Symmetry. February 2019, Lanchester Research Gallery, Coventry University.

Artist Spotlight: Jack Foster

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Coventry artist Jack Foster has recently returned from a month-long residency in Dresden, Germany as part of the Coventry-Dresden Arts Exchange. This artist-led grassroots initiative was set up by Coventry-based artist John Yeadon back in 2012 to develop dialogue and establish collaborative partnerships between artists from both cities.

We visited Jack’s current solo show “Dresden Paintings” at Classroom Gallery, and have interviewed him to find out more about his stay in Dresden, and this wonderful collection of paintings produced during his residency.

How did you enjoy your stay in Dresden?

I went to Dresden without knowing how I’d respond to seclusion of various kinds- spatial and societal, for the most part. I spoke some German but not enough to hold a conversation worth having. A month is a long time to run an experiment like that on yourself but I learned a lot.

My hosts, Anne and Christian Manss, could not have been more welcoming. They kept me alive for a month whilst I got the painting done.

Dresden was beautiful but extremely cold at the time (February) so I lived between my guest room at and my studio, which I shared with Christian and Anne. I met some great people in Dresden and the experience was invaluable.

Before travelling to Dresden, did you set any objectives, that you wished to achieve through your residency?

I hadn’t had too much time or space to paint in the months leading up to the residency but I had a few sketchbooks filled with ideas. My main objective was to see where I was as a painter. My work tends to tread a line between figurative representation and painterly abstraction and I go back and forth between the two.

Previous to Dresden, I addressed painting in a slightly more playful way, I wasn’t painting with any serious technicality or concern for colour theory. The work that I made was largely based on background figures and drapery in old masters paintings so I wanted to re-learn how to paint, to a degree.

My palette was stripped back to four or five colours (as opposed to my bags of hundreds of tubes that I usually work with), this forced be to get the most out of those colours and figure out new ways to use them. The decision to limit myself in this way also negated most of the decision paralysis when it came to mixing up colours due to the fact that I was mostly working in tone.

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What projects did you work on during your stay?

The sketches that I compiled previous to the residency were of draped fabrics, background figures and areas of light and shade- all lifted from old masters paintings, drawn and re-drawn out of context until they became their own image.

These were my starting point and I wrestled with them for a month.

‘Economy of mark’ is a phrase that my friend Mircea Taleaga used when he came to give a guest lecture about his work at Coventry university where I teach. The phrase, as far as I can see, originated with him but I’ve adopted it as a really useful way of talking about the amount of brush marks used to suggest form.

In a lot of classical portraiture, the faces could be said to have a low economy of mark (lots of marks to create the forms) whereas the drapery, background figures and even the sitter’s hands often had quite a high economy of mark (fewer marks to create the form, often tonal sketches).

I am interested in using the spectrum of this economy in different ways. Looking at a painting in this way works like a visual map of time spent in various places, it’s a sort of document of attention.

How do you feel that your time in Dresden benefited your creative practice?

It’s rare to get so much time to think about painting.

I’m able to do things with paint that I simply couldn’t do before, the time spent with just a few colours has been almost as important as the years spent with my collection of hundreds of colours.

What themes do your paintings explore?

Previous work has been about pattern seeking and superstition, In life, literature and In painting. I’ve painted a lot of Skinner Boxes- animal boxes from BF skinner’s famous experiments. I show these boxes alongside some paintings of drapery with suggested figuration.

I like to take things out of images when they should be there and put things In when they shouldn’t be.

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Draped fabric appears in many of the paintings in your solo show. Tell us a little more about this.

The draped fabrics started to come into my work as a bit of a joke, I painted a few which looked like a kid’s terrible ghost costume or something but the paintings looked more serious. There was no foot coming from underneath the sheet and the proportions weren’t human so they were just these draped forms, moving without an author.

They were also sort of about the way people approach semi-abstraction when looking at paintings, there’s almost a frustration for the image to be fully explicable.

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What’s next for you now as an artist?

I’m making more sketches and I’ll figure out what they are later when I try to paint them. After that I’ll try to show them somewhere.

Where can people go to find out more about your work?

For now my Instagram is the best place @jack_foster_artist

 

Jack’s solo show “Dresden Paintings” is currently on display at Classroom Gallery, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 11 – 4pm, or viewing by appointment, until the end of April 2018.

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New residency announced for Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange!

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Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange have announced a new month-long residency (February 2018) in Dresden for Coventry based artist Jack Foster, hosted by Dresden artist Christian Manss.

Born in Coventry, Jack is a 26 year old painter and a graduate of Coventry University. He currently lectures on the Foundation Art and Design Course at Coventry University. Jack has had solo exhibitions and group shows in London and the Midlands. He was the 2013 winner of Coventry University Drawing Prize from which he was an artist in residence at Rugby School, teaching and creating a new body of work.

This pilot residency programme is been supported by Coventry City Council a Small Arts Grant. Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange hope to make these Exchange residencies a regular feature of their activities.

Dresden artist Alexandra Müller was artist in residence in Coventry in July-August 2017, hosted by John Yeadon. The residency was a great success and Alexandra was a perfect ambassador for Dresden and Dresden artists. She had an open studio and a final exhibition in City Arcadia Gallery, which were well attended with over 60 visitors, amongst these visitors was The Lord Mayor of Coventry and the Dean of Coventry Cathedral. Alexandra visited museums and historic sites in Coventry including the Cathedral, also visiting artists studios in Coventry and Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire plus art galleries in London and Birmingham accompanied by Coventry artists.

Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is a personal initiative of Coventry based artist John Yeadon and has been active since 01/06/2012. It was formed into an Unincorporated Artist Association in 01/04/2015. The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is an artists-led grassroots initiative, which seeks to develop dialogue between artists from the cities of Coventry and Dresden and to establish collaborative partnerships of exchanges, exhibitions, educational projects and forums.

Since 2012 they have had 6 collaborative exhibitions with Dresden artists in both cities. With over 1,000 visitors at the Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange exhibition at Pillnitz Castle during the Elbhangfest in 2016.

We are looking forward to seeing how Jack gets on during his stay in Dresden.