February Update – A new season of Culture

May Catt, Visitor & Cultural Services Manager

Spring may be emerging slowly, but we’re steaming apace into a new and distinct season of culture. Inspiring exhibitions to exhilarate and entertain have brought fresh energy to the Mercer Gallery, with exciting developments underway to invigorate and improve our museum environments.

At the Mercer Gallery, “Now You See Me” features figurative work ranging from 16th Century portraiture to contemporary painting and photography. It’s an eclectic look at representations of people in the artworks from our collection, and questions how image-making can frame our ideas about people and the world around us. “With Nature and a Camera: Cherry Kearton and the Birth of Wildlife Documentary” features images and personal artefacts collected by the pioneering wildlife photographer Cherry Kearton, whose photographic career began in Yorkshire in 1890. Part of Harrogate Photographic Society’s centenary programme, the exhibition celebrates an ecological and photographic change-maker, whose aim was to preserve and document wildlife rather than cull it for memorabilia. While “The World Through Our Eyes” provides an artwork platform for the art makers at Harrogate-based charity Artizan International. Differently able artists from Artizan have been building a body of artwork throughout the year, resulting in a beautiful range of expression from the artists themselves and view of the world they live in.

Following the hugely successful Mercer Open exhibition, which offered 90 artists from across Yorkshire opportunities to show and sell their artwork, this new season demonstrates quite how diverse our exhibition programme is. Having such creative variety in the content and themes of our exhibitions is hugely important. It provides opportunities for regional artists to display their work; showcases the Harrogate collections; and brings exciting exhibitions of national importance into the area, enriching access to arts and culture for our residents and our visitors.

Later this spring, we’re thrilled to be bringing something new and different to the Mercer: an ARTIST ROOMs exhibition and major new collaboration with Tate, hosting works from their collections and from the National Galleries of Scotland by Yorkshire born, Turner-prize-winning artist Martin Creed. The avant-garde work of internationally-renowned Creed will include rarely-seen installations, video work, neon and paintings. It’s a real coup for the Mercer: watch this space!


And as spring throws a new light on the world around us, we’re breathing new life into our history with sustainable improvements to our cultural spaces. We’ve freshened up the entrance to the Mercer Gallery with new units made by Yorkshire-based Plaey Workshop, who work with sustainable birch plywood and Valchoramat, made from 100% recyclable plant fibres. The redesign has enabled us to expand our gallery shop with artist-made jewellery, prints, ceramics, greetings cards and bespoke gifts, extending and enhancing the experience for everyone who visits. At the Royal Pump Room Museum we’re restoring the ornate, octagonal, carved wooden counter that was built to echo the shape of the original 1842 Pump Room and returning it to its original position, where visitors were served Harrogate’s famous healing waters – offering today’s visitors a more authentic representation. New interpretations of stories from the people who visited and worked in the Pump Room will join additional exhibits related to Harrogate’s spa history. These include an Imperial Russian jewelled cutlery set, presented as a Christening gift to the Allen family, at whose lodgings Princess Alix of Hesse would stay, whilst visiting Harrogate prior to her marriage to Tsar Nicholas II!

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