Carlisle Historic Quarter Art Festival Opens With Cathedral Commission Opportunity

Festival showcasing some of Cumbria’s best and most beautiful new art opens and there’s a £1,000 prize to be won

More than 40 artists from Cumbria came together to showcase the beauty of Carlisle at the launch of this year’s Historic Quarter Arts Festival.

Artists of all ages, both professional and amateur, are displaying their work in 18 venues including shops, cafes and hairdressers as part of the festival that began on Monday evening.

The creative theme for this year is Carlisle 2022, with the artwork entries being inspired by that, whether it’s a place, person, event or something more abstract.

As part of the festival, all artists are in with a chance of winning a commission to create an artwork of Carlisle Cathedral in its 900th year along with a cash prize of £1000.

A winner will be selected by a panel of judges, and the public has the opportunity to highlight their favourite work too.

Alyssa Saha, a 14-year-old from Cumwhitton, spoke of her pride in her painting of Carlisle Cathedral, which is currently on display in the main exhibition gallery at Intro on Paternoster Row.

She said: “I wasn’t sure what to paint for the competition as I usually do portraits and not landscapes.

“So I decided to stick to what the festival is about, walked around the city and came across a nice angle of the cathedral straight on. 

“I was excited to do it, it took me a couple of weeks to finish it after school and I’m excited to see it here in the gallery.”

Seren Shaw, an artist and event organiser from the St. Nicholas Gate area, has her watercolour and ink painting of the cathedral’s inside arches on display at Abbey Court hairdressers.

The 29-year-old said: “I wanted to do something which evoked the historical side of Carlisle and the newer more exciting things which are going on.

“I found a beautiful photo of the cathedral’s interior during the city of lights festival last year, lit up with these amazing colours and I wanted to get it across in an abstract way, not be too traditional, and bring the different textures to life. 

“The festival is fantastic as it promotes local artists, the area and local businesses. It stands for everything I do so I’m pleased my work is on display as part of it.”

Helen Statham, director of Intro PR & Social Media Ltd, which has organised the competition on behalf of the Historic Quarter Arts Festival, is pleased to be bringing business and artists together for the second year in a row.

She said: “The Intro team are extremely passionate about our base in Carlisle’s Historic Quarter, so we’re delighted to be able to open the festival again this summer to encourage more people to enjoy this beautiful part of the city.

“I walk through this part of town on my way to work every day, but sometimes it’s good to have an excuse to make a bit of a detour.

“The Historic Quarter Arts Festival brings businesses and arts together in a totally unique way and we’re hoping this helps to increase footfall for our fantastic local shops, cafes and tourist attractions.”

Carlisle mayor Mike Mitchelson and Melanie Gardner, one of the judges, keeper of fine and decorative art at Tullie House

Carlisle mayor Mike Mitchelson officially opened the event by stating “Importantly this competition promotes both amateur and local artists with an excellent cash prize, it helps celebrate the cathedral’s 900th anniversary and it gives something we can all enjoy in this part of the city which is a match for the likes of York and Chester.”

The exhibition is sponsored by Carlisle City Council, the University of Cumbria, Hayward Tod and Discover Carlisle. 

The Historic Quarter Arts festival runs from Monday 8 August until Friday 2 September. The main exhibition gallery, at Intro on 7 Paternoster Row, will be open daily from 11am until 4pm, with a later closing time of 7pm on Thursdays. 

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