My mum, Veronica, was full of energy. She embraced life through her love of family and friends, and overall through art, in all its colourful forms. I am one of four siblings and we grew up in a magical home on a beautiful farm high up on the Wiltshire Downs surrounded by art and artists giving a richness not only to my mum’s life, but also to my own and that of my siblings. I could not imagine a childhood any other way. Artists breathed through our house like an extension of our family: old friends and new, people whom mum wanted to support, sometimes merely by providing a loving home from home for all who needed it, whether they knew it or not.
My mum’s love of art and her determination in supporting artists and their creative endeavours has been a monumental gift, hopefully to all those who have directly benefited from her support, but also to me. Loving art is an inherent part of who I am and it connects me to so many wonderful people in my life today. Despite my mum dying too young, aged 62, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had a mother who has left me with all these precious gifts.
Listening to my mother’s eulogy – which recounted the numerous ways in which she tried to help and support artists from all walks of life – I could not have been prouder. My mother was by no means a wealthy lady, yet she found all kinds of ways to support artists and artistic projects, with time, energy, connections, encouragement, modest commissions and love. It is this love and support of artists that the Veronica Stewart Arts Trust seeks to continue. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, in writing this it has a dawned on me that not only do the objectives of the Trust reflect the legacy of my mum, but so too does the way in which the Trust is able to achieve those objectives: with the amazing generosity of those who share the same love of the arts and support the Trust not just financially, but with time, energy and creativity. Each year, for five years, the Trust will support a different medium of art: sculpture, music, painting, drama and literature. This year, the Trust focuses on sculpture.
In April 2014, the Trust opened an eight-month sculpture exhibition in conjunction with the National Trust, in Mompesson House, Salisbury, Wiltshire. The exhibition aims to provide a platform of exposure for a number of exhibiting emerging sculptors, whose work is shown alongside that of sculptors with established international reputations. Most of the exhibitors, some of whom are also sadly no longer with us, were friends of my mother’s and some are also local to Salisbury, which makes this project even more special. This is exactly the kind of project my mum would have wanted to do herself. It is a beautifully curated exhibition, set in a beautiful house and garden in the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral – a magical wonder of place, cherished by all of my family, as it was by my mum.
Until recently, I walked to work every day via Paternoster Square, by St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and every morning I would walk past the magnificently beautiful sculpture by Dame Elizabeth Frink, Shepherd and Sheep. It felt like a gift from my Mother, and it was.
The contemporary sculpture exhibition at Mompesson House in memory of my mother will be open until Sunday November 2nd, do stop by.