Swindon MAG Curator Sophie Cummings with a selection of floral paintings by artists with a Wiltshire connection, including ‘Flowers of the Wiltshire Downs’ by artist and Richard Jefferies-fan, Kate Tryon

A new pop-up art exhibition has officially opened at the STEAM Museum today (19 Sept).

Swindon Borough Council’s Art on Tour project, which aims to bring Swindon’s impressive art collection to a wider audience, has kicked off – and STEAM is its first stop.

Back in March, the Council’s Cabinet decided to go ahead with a new scheme which would see selected items from Swindon’s art and museum collection being displayed at rotating exhibitions at various heritage and civic buildings.

The collections are currently housed at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road. Swindon MAG is owned and operated by the Council and houses a modern art collection of national importance, alongside historic artefacts of local significance.

However, the museum’s potential for reaching a wide audience is generally considered to be quite limited – space is at a premium and school visits are not easy to accommodate.

As a result, a budget of up to £100,000 was approved to support the Art on Tour project and a new Pledge was created promising to encourage children to visit the museums as part of their education.

Picture: Swindon MAG Curator Sophie Cummings and STEAM Museum Assistant Curator Esther Harper with a View of New Swindon by self-taught artist Josiah Hood, showing the view towards the GWR Swindon Works from Swindon Hill

It is hoped that the Art on Tour initiative will bring the collection to a wider audience, conferring cultural and educational benefits on people right across the town.

The STEAM exhibition will run for at least the next 12 months and can be viewed by anyone who visits the museum. It is included with standard admission.

The pieces on display have been selected for their connection to STEAM and their association with Swindon’s railway history.

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “Art should be seen. In four words, that is what I believe. We must find ways to make Swindon Council’s hidden art collection seen by as many people as possible in the most accessible way.

“I think it is fantastic that the first pop-up art exhibition is now officially open in the STEAM Museum, and it is themed for the venue. My thanks to the team who have put a lot of thought and effort into organising this project. If this is successful then I look forward to residents seeing Swindon’s art in more locations around the town.”

Esther Harper, Assistant Curator at STEAM, said: “We’re delighted to have these pictures from Swindon MAG on display at STEAM for our visitors to enjoy. Among the Swindon MAG artworks showcased in our GWR Office display is a small painting by Alfred Williams, who is best known for his book Life in a Railway Factory, which chronicles working life at Swindon Works at the turn of the 20th century.”

Sophie Cummings, Curator at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, said: “We are thrilled to be working with our colleagues at STEAM to share some fascinating works of art from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery’s collections, which have been in storage for many years.

“The paintings enhance the fantastic displays at STEAM while giving glimpses of how Swindon has changed since the arrival of the GWR. We hope visitors really enjoy seeing this new display when they visit the museum.”