Where can you get a good tasty meal, or great coffee and cakes, surrounded by amazing works of art and overlooking the river Medina? The answer is, if course, Quay Arts in Newport, which has it all.
Not only this but it contains the excellent Anthony Minghella Theatre that hosts great plays, live music, cinema nights and ‘evenings with’, and the restaurant doubles as a venue for the Open Mic Comedy nights once a month and is a gallery space too with local art featured on the walls.
The dedicated art galleries feature fantastic exhibitions from local, national and international artists and musicians, and performers of every kind and from all corners of the globe pass through. This is the Island’s cultural hub and its only major art centre and gallery so make sure you don’t miss it.
Currently in the large Michael West Gallery is major solo exhibition of work by Island-based artist Lisa Traxler: large vitreous enamel and paper sculptures. Lisa is best known for her now collectable large canvas abstract paintings. Over the years her prolific volume of work has grown to include stitched collages incorporating photography and archival works and until more recently, wall murals and sculptures of vitreous enamel on steel.
Across the landing and you are in the Learning Curve Gallery that usually features work by local youngsters giving a response to the major exhibition and often in conjunction with the artist. Currenly, however, it has an exhibition of monoprints with supporting sketches and paintings by Deborah Richards of areas including Luccombe, St Catherine’s lighthouse and nearby Rocken End, Gurnard and Cowes.
The ground floor is mainly taken up by the restaurant that sits in the old red brick warehouse with its attractive windows. The walls of the cafe serve as another exhibition space and currently host ‘Takeaways’: a selection of affordable work by local and regional artists that can be bought and taken away on the same day.
The food is fab, affordable and features a lot of veggie options with gluten free meals and cakes too. There is also a conference/function room off of the restaurant that can be hired, and it is often used by local businesses for meetings. It also houses further art and craft exhibitions at certain times throughout the year.
Walk out from the restaurant café and across the terrace and you are in the Rope Store gallery that tends to be a showcase for more local artists, although it also features work from ‘overseas’. The current exhibition is a retrospective on Peter Wright, one of the Island’s best known artists. With a painting career spanning over 60 years and coinciding with his 80th Birthday, this exhibition celebrates the breadth of his work over the last 12 years.
At this point don’t forget to stop and look over the pretty geranium filled flower boxes to the river below where you are likely to see hosts of swans and ducks, particularly at high tide. On sunny days you can dine on this terrace and it must be one of the prettiest and warmest sun traps in Newport, with large parasols to shade from the rays.
A sunburst of porcelain adorns a wall in this area – a legacy from previous ‘artist in residence’ Sue Paraskeva. Further round the building you will see ironwork birds and ceramic dolphins – all adding to the artistic atmosphere. And if you want to make a sound investment much of the work in the galleries are for sale.
Smaller items are on sale in the Quay shop, which is the very best place to buy a tasteful gift for family, friends or just yourself as you are bound to fall in love with something in here – beautiful pots and mugs, prints, mirrors, stained glass, driftwood items and gorgeous jewellery feature amongst the cornucopia of arty items in this emporium. You’ll find it hard to walk through without buying a little something – and you usually have to walk into the building through the shop, which has its main entrance in the picturesque Sea Street that houses some of the oldest buildings in the town.
There’s loads of parking nearby in one of two car parks or nearby Quay Street. Make sure you have some spare change for a parking ticket. Disabled access is very good, with wide doorways and a lift to the first floor.