Decorative Artist Sarah Arnett prepares her Brighton home this morning (Sun) as an Open House for the first time . Members of the public are able to walk around the colourful home where Sarah has designed and made the wallpapers, fabrics , cushions and prints in her own vivid style Pic by David McHugh

Artists Open Houses May Festival 2023

The UK’s first, and now the largest, event of its kind will be throwing open the doors of homes and studios across Brighton & Hove and Sussex this month. Artists Open Houses (AOH) encourages audiences and artists to connect in a multitude of self-curated, non-traditional art spaces. Around 200 houses and studios will be displaying some of the area’s finest creators and makers.

“Everyone is exceptional in one way or another!” says Festival Director, Judy Stevens. “AOH embraces the entire community, welcoming artists of all ages and at all stages of their careers. School children, university students, emerging artists, neuro-diverse artists, artists with mental health issues and with learning disabilities. Also, established artists and those with national and international reputations.”

Run in parallel with Brighton and Fringe Festivals, AOH’s ethos is wholly inclusive.

It encourages participation from artists and makers of all ages, at all stages of their careers and from all parts of the community. Including school and college students and artists who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised from the mainstream.

It’s Abi Chambers’ first time exhibiting at AOH. She is unequivocal about the opportunities it offers people to discover new work, as well as the platform it gives emerging talent. “It’s a great way to meet and see work from other artists. They’ve given me loads of advice and insights. It’s also brilliant to discover other mediums.”

Chris Lewis South Heighton Pottery

Exhibiting at The Coach House in Kemptown, she’s developed her practice in needle felting. Her work is greatly influenced by the natural environment and the amazing colours provided by nature. She takes a photograph of something and recreates it with wool fibres, evoking a beguiling sense of depth and memory. “For me it’s a feeling, how a moment in time can resonate. And how I can take that feeling and turn it, to produce something which inspires.” 

The event can be traced back to 1982. Ned Hoskins began inviting visitors into his home to view his own work and that of a group of friends. Other local artists started doing the same, forming the Fiveways Artists Group. It proved instantly popular, and other groups began popping up in other neighbourhood. This lead to the creation of city-wide schemes as part of Brighton Fringe. Artists Open Houses was then established in 2004, producing a brochure uniting all the individual trails. It created an identity separate from the similarly flourishing Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe.

While events have grown exponentially, AOH has remained true to its roots. It consults extensively with the 1,000 artists involved annually on the direction moving forwards.

Stevens is keen to highlight how everyone is welcomed. “Both artist participants and audiences are welcome to engage with AOH. To explore their own creativity and be inspired by the ideas, techniques and practices of others.”

Patsy McArthur suggests AOH helps the city’s artists and makers to meet and visit each other in their own environments and forge important local creative connections. “It offers an invaluable opportunity to have meaningful dialogue about our work with collectors. We can trial new ideas and receive immediate feedback. Artists are often introverted souls who hide away in our studios and behind social media.  AOH forces us into real conversations with real people in real time, there’s nothing like it!” 

Will Nash – Photo by John Miller

She’s showing her latest series, Night Moves, in her own home on Marine Parade. Using drawing and painting, she explores the figure in motion. Figures leaping, soaring, flying and falling, along with the associated emotions which can be triggered in the viewer. Her work conveys a sense of power and energy or potential energy, along with the fragmented and fleeting nature of experience.

“For art fans I think they love the casual environment that AOH offers. I think they get a deeper understanding of who the artists are as people from meeting them in their homes and studios.” 

There is a joyful garden party mood in the air for this year’s AOH. Especially with the Coronation looming and festivities back to full strength after the pandemic. Exceptional art is being shown in some very beautiful places. For example, Stuart and Mark and Friends’ large meadow garden with mosaics in Fiveways. Seven Dials has Alizeti Creative, which boasts a beautiful outside space to accompany the display of mosaic sculptures, Japanese fabrics, ceramics and jewellery. 

Hove’s Art in Bloom features painting, plus sculptures in ceramic, paper and bronze, all hung in a walled garden. Along the coast in Ovingdean, Mike Levy Pots and Prints invites visitors into a purpose-built home studio. It is surrounded by a lush garden, where domestic tableware, large garden pots and tiles, posters and cards are for sale. There are more ceramics even further along the coast, in Newhaven, at South Heighton Pottery garden, along with homemade food.

Perhaps one of the most enticing venues is Kemp Town’s The Secret Garden. A huge oasis of green hidden from the city by a high flint wall.

With a charming café serving excellent food by TABLE, visitors can marvel at the monumental, crash-landed figures of David Breuer-Weill. Over in Ditchling, Dymocks End Studio is an award-winning Sussex Downs-garden boasting an orchard and an ancient well. This hidden, peaceful place is the setting for sculptures and fabric installations. Or music fans can enjoy a Venezuelan Garden Concert at Encounters in West Hove, accompanied by some delicious food.

Patsy McArthur

Stevens tells me the Brighton & Hove area has more than its fair share of artists and makers.

“It has long had a reputation as being an area of great creativity. But with ever-diminishing affordable studio space in Brighton and Hove, it is increasingly hard for young artists to maintain a base here. It is really important everyone supports their local artist community, buying from local artist and makers, to conserve that presence within our city.”

Renowned designer, Sarah Arnett, showcases colour and exoticism in fabrics, wallpaper and fashion items at The Little Picture Palace in Seven Dials. She promises cocktails in the garden and surprise weekend entertainment, too. RAPTURE at Brunswick’s beautiful Regency Townhouse aims to revolutionise exhibition economics with its profit-sharing model. Matthew Burrows of @artistsupportpledge fame will be giving a talk as part of a programme of RAPTURE events. 

Known for its controversially colourful paintjob, Sam Hewitt’s House on Dyke Road is full of the acclaimed artist’s drone-inspired street scenes. Finally, step into the architectural ceramicist Kay Aplin’s unusual tile-adorned home. The Ceramic House Gallery in Fiveways hosts contemporary Irish ceramics and sound art. Plus, a collaboration between artists in Estonia, Ireland and the UK.

There is plenty of patriotic fun to be had at Beacon Hill Windmill in Rottingdean.

More Tales From The Windmill brings together 3D illustrated lanterns, puppet theatre, animation, paintings, books. Also, fortune-telling, live folk music, and a 3D Coronation kit to cut out and colour. There’s even a 50’s-style television live-stream of King Charles being crowned. Alternatively, you can see a Chinese brush painting demo at Delicious Delights near Fiveways. Immerse yourself in a sound installation and see handmade recorders at Hanover’s The Yellow House, take Vintage Afternoon Tea at The Claremont in Hove. Or, marvel at AI Assisted Portraits by Kaniskult at Kemptown’s Art Rascal.

Abi Chambers

Making their debut amongst the AOH family this year is Laura Waldusky in Kemptown, who creates painstakingly precise line drawings on paper, some made into 3D sculptures. There’s also Home James at 76 in Fiveways, showing printmaking, ceramics and crafts, with an open garden and Portslade’s The Way of Seeing which features experimental photos from the Sussex countryside.

Although its concomitant to how AOH is presented, the festival does offer an opportunity to views spaces where much of the art is developed and formed, which can often be as rewarding as viewing the works themselves. “The joy of visiting artists in their own homes and studios is that it breaks down the barriers of the more formal gallery structure,” suggests Stevens. “Being able to talk to the artist about their work, sharing ideas, such as how the work is made, what inspires and influences them, is a very different one for both artists and visitors. Plus, there is the added pleasure of seeing artists in their own environments and, yes, it is always nice to visit a lovely house full of interesting art – some even offer tea and homemade cake!” 

Artists Open Houses 2023 runs every weekend from Sat 6 – Sun 28 May. For more details, and information on participants, visit:

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