Teignmouth and Art: A Personal Story

Growing up in Teignmouth in the 1960s, I was aware that Art was important in the area.  Teignmouth Art Society was flourishing, Art as a subject at the Grammar School was popular and there was a well-respected Art College in Newton Abbot (located in the present-day library).

Teignmouth, art and the swingin’ sixties

The scenery in Teignmouth and the beautiful light of ‘Sunny South Devon’ were obviously both factors in inspiring artists, but I also remember something else as a teenager: Art was very trendy nationally at the time. There was an explosion of different radical ideas, particularly Pop and Op Art, and Art Schools were definitely the sanctuaries of cool! Many musicians studied at art school, including John Lennon, Keith Richards, Ray Davies, Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. However, this was not the reason I applied to go! I thoroughly enjoyed the subject, managed to pass enough ‘O’ levels for them to accept me and, quite honestly, didn’t know what else I wanted to do.

After the petty restrictions of Teignmouth Grammar School, The South Devon College of Art at Newton Abbot was a wonderful place! The tutors were so cool; the course wide-ranging and interesting; AND you could wear what you wanted! The Pre-Diploma in Art and Design course meant you experienced 3-Dimensional Design; Graphics; Textiles & Fashion and Fine Art. Some of the young tutors went on to achieve great things: Roger Kerslake with ceramics in Canada and Gerald Park with his paintings. (Us girls fancied them both!) The History of Art and Liberal studies also featured on the course with the emphasis being on discussion and ‘questions to make you think’. I still remember “If you saw yourself walking towards you, what would you do?” Music also was very much to the fore – and not only in the common room where us students played Paul Simon’s Songbook album (or LP as we said then) incessantly. Some of us were introduced to classical music for the first time to try to fire our imaginations. Life drawing was also a first, but after  our initial embarrassment, soon became quite routine.

I became a member of Teignmouth Art Society and enjoyed wandering around Teignmouth sketching. Looking back now it seems that there were no galleries though, and I think the only place that showed Teignmouth Art Society’s work was the Methodist Hall in Shaldon. Now there are many outlets and galleries and Art in Teignmouth is more popular than ever! Teignmouth’s Art Quarter is testament to that fact with TAAG, Spymass, Laura Wall, the Lenkiewicz Gallery and Voyage. Art in Teignmouth just keeps on growing!