Art + Pitlochry equals enterprise:
The Pitlochry Art Walk Festival
Having opened a brand new business in Pitlochry only at the end of last year, Annie Stenhouse who runs the Melt Gallery with her husband Colin, decided it was time to get another new venture off the ground. And so the Pitlochry Art Walk Festival was born.
Inspired by the long established and highly successful Pittenweem Arts Festival, Annie who moved to Scotland from Vermont after meeting Colin (from Bearsden) some 15 years ago, conceived what could turn into an annual event, as a way to support Scottish artists, increase footfall to local businesses and give visitors an opportunity to explore Pitlochry as they have never done before.
She explains: “The idea is that local businesses donate space in their premises where artists and craftmakers can set up and show their work – and in some cases make their work on site.
“I thought: if we can get 10 businesses interested, it’s viable. In fact, there has been such enthusiasm and support for the Festival that we have 21 venues and 60 artists taking part.
“The work will be on show for a week in many of the town’s cafes, bars, restaurants and shops as well as the hotels, golf club and the famous Pitlochry Festival Theatre – and, of course, the Melt Gallery!
“We’ve had special maps of the town printed up – thanks to a very generous donation from our main sponsor, McKay’s Bar and Restaurant – which give a brief description of each artist and showing the business where their work can be seen. Pitlochry Rotary Club stage an annual exhibition of local schools’ art work at this time of year and their venue is also included on the map.”
Although the Melt Gallery opened only in December 2014, Annie and Colin ran the Stenhouse Gallery and Cafe in Crieff for seven years* before selling up in 2010 to return to America to look after Annie’s ailing mum. After her death, they moved back to Scotland and decided Pitlochry would be the site of their next venture.
Says Annie, who is a jewellery maker and seller and also had bar and restaurant experience: “I really liked Pitlochry and it ticked all the boxes for us, personally, and for the new business we wanted to set up: lots of tourists, a train station in the town, the Festival Theatre, near the water.
“It’s a very attractive, vibrant town and quite cosmopolitan. You can’t assume that the people who come into your shop will be native English speakers.
“We thought things would be quiet when we first opened but local hotels have good offers on during the winter season and we were much busier than I had expected.
“Some people are intimidated by galleries and we’ve made a point of being as welcoming as possible and stocking work that everyone can afford – from very pretty earrings at only £9 (nine pounds) and one-off art cards at just £8 (eight pounds).
“We have groups of women coming in to try on the jewellery and couples where one is happy to sit on a nice, comfy sofa and have a coffee, a home baked cake and a read of the paper while the other looks at the art work.
“We make a point of displaying inexpensive jewellery in the window, and showing the price tags right side up, so that passersby aren’t put off from coming in. We also have tie-ins with local events where possible. For instance, we featured some lovely work on a cycling theme from artist Garth Bayley when the Etape Caledonia was taking place.”