Hidden Art Gems in England and Wales: Top Exhibitions and Programmes to Plan Your Next Trip Around

22 May 2024

by Suzie Jones

From a baroque-inspired public sculpture to a modernist icon on campus and workshops on ecological art, plan your next art-filled trip around our top picks for unique and inspiring art programmes in England and Wales.

Go offbeat with your next art trip. These excellent galleries and artworks aren't in the most obvious locations, but we promise you won't be disappointed. Presenting exceptional contemporary art and responsive, community-minded public programmes, these organisations are widening arts access in smaller cities, towns, and rural locations across the UK.

GroundWork Gallery, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Tucked down a pretty street off the old Purfleet Quay in historic King’s Lynn is GroundWork Gallery. Dedicated to art and the environment, it shows the work of contemporary artists who care about how we see the world. Exhibitions and creative programmes explore how art can enable us to respond to the changing environment and imagine how we can shape its future.

The venue delivers ambitious exhibitions to a high standard, yet always keeps the local community in mind through engagement work and emerging talent programmes. Upcoming artist-led mini-residency “Mossibilities” will explore moss as a microcosm and tool for transformation, investigating ways of working with and learning from more-than-human species to create ecological art and speculative futures.

Over the two days, artists Lucy Dukes and Laura Melissa Williams will share their excitement, passion, and discoveries about this amazing plant species and what we can learn from it. It offers a fantastic experience for those who want to explore together how to be more creative in the natural world. There’s room for a number of people to stay over at the B&B-style GroundWorks apartment, and if both days aren’t possible for you, book onto either with a single day pass.

Other current and upcoming events at GroundWorks Gallery include Art for the Environment, an international group show running until 8 June, and in July, a live flint-knapping demonstration.

Baroque Sprawl by Laura White, Hereford, Herefordshire. Commissioned by Meadow Arts and Hereford College of Arts

Working in locations across Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Shropshire, Meadow Arts offers plenty of creative inroads to the West Midlands. The current commission, Baroque Sprawl by sculptor Laura White, is a wonderful example of this—activating the red brick facade of a student accommodation block and highlighting the city’s artistic character.

Over the past three years, Meadow Arts and Hereford College of Arts have jointly commissioned a programme of public artworks for a student accommodation building near Hereford Railway Station. Baroque Sprawl, running until March 2025, draws inspiration from the Baroque period and pays homage to Bernini’s famous sculpture, Apollo and Daphne. In this two-part installation, White creates a dynamic interaction between the artwork and its urban surroundings, celebrating the transformational power of art.

In addition to this, Herefordshire Council's Art + People + Place initiative further enriches the city with the Hereford Public Art Trail, featuring eight wall-based murals and eight sculptures to be discovered across the city centre.

Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, Norfolk

Located on the University of East Anglia campus on the edge of the city, Sainsbury Centre is a world-class museum and art gallery, recognised by its iconic building design by Norman Foster. Its beautiful setting and impressive collection draw a crowd, however, the venue is constantly evolving and adapting in response to current times. In 2023, it became the first art museum in the world to recognise art as alive and unveiled new displays, exhibitions, resources, and activities that invite you to connect with art much more like you would another person than an inanimate object.

In its current season, Sainsbury Centre is investigating how we can know what is true in the world around us through a series of fascinating, interlinked exhibitions. The dynamic programme consists of four key, interlinked exhibitions – “In Event of Moon Disaster”, “Liquid Gender”, “Jeffrey Gibson: no simple word for time”, and “The Camera Never Lies” – bringing together some of the world’s leading artists and creative thinkers, plus a new, interlinking publication.

Mostyn, Llandudno, Conwy

A Victorian seaside town in North Wales is perhaps an unlikely location for an ambitious contemporary art gallery, but Mostyn is proof that with the right team, supporters, and local community, arts venues can thrive in unexpected locations.

A visit here makes a great day trip from Manchester or Liverpool, or for Londoners, make it an art weekend away, stopping off at Tŷ Pawb along the way. There are currently three exhibitions happening at Mostyn, each intersecting with a different global or artistic concern, and presenting work by artists working locally and internationally.

The Harley Foundation, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

Nestled deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, The Harley Foundation is an award-winning, free arts venue. The building itself was built upon the foundations of the old gasworks of the Welbeck Abbey estate and comprises a gallery, museum, ceramics workshops, and artists’ studios. There are a number of exhibitions happening currently, including a solo exhibition by artist Effie Burns, who works with glass casting and burnishing techniques to create her intriguing, jewel-like sculptures.

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