Local artists have unveiled 25 individually painted bear sculptures at a private exhibition in Barnstaple.
The five-foot-tall bears have been taking shape in artists’ studios throughout the summer but were shown together for the first time at a private exhibition at the Petroc Lifestyle Centre on Thursday ahead of a colourful public sculpture trail in and around North Devon next spring.
Invited guests were given the chance to meet the bears and some of the artists who have been busy transforming the sculptures for the Bear Hunt Art Trail, being held in support of Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW).
The charity, which runs three children’s hospices, including Little Bridge House in Fremington, has joined forces with The Art of Fundraising to create a series of trails in and around Barnstaple, Bideford, Torrington, Ilfracombe and South Molton.
The trails are set to go live in February and members of the public will be able to discover the bears and find out more about the artists using a special mobile app. It is hoped the bears will help raise awareness and funds for CHSW, which provides vital care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions and their families.
Among the artists taking part are Amy Jobes from Chivenor; Sandy Brown from Appledore; Jennie Cousins from Ilfracombe; Lisa White from Braunton; Mau Mau from Barnstaple; John Hurford from Chulmleigh; Nicola Hallman from Hartland, Alice Bulmer from Bideford, Lucy Sheffield from Clovelly; Allison Faye from Ilfracombe; and Kathy Nettles from Holsworthy.
There are also a number of celebrity-artist collaborations, including with former England and Somerset cricketer Marcus Trescothick; British flat and steeplechase jockey Tom Scudamore; and television and radio presenter Judi Spiers.
CHSW Bear Hunt project coordinator Kate Romo said: “It’s been great to see so much interest in our Bear Hunt Art trail and the event at Petroc gave sponsors and hosts an exclusive sneak peek at all the finished bears together for the first time. We are very grateful to the college for hosting such a special exhibition.
“It was incredibly special to see the interpretations by all the artists, and also speak to local businesses about opportunities to get involved in this exciting initiative, which we hope will bring significant footfall and economic benefit to the area.
“With the trail launching next spring, there are still plenty of opportunities for businesses to get involved, either as a trail or bear sponsor, or by becoming a sculpture host.
There are various sponsorship packages available so if your business would like to get involved or you’d like to find out more, we’d love to hear from you.
“Our bears are now going into hibernation for the winter but we can’t wait to see them raising smiles and awareness for CHSW all over North Devon early next year,” added Kate.
Bill Blythe, Petroc’s vice-principal of finance, resources and regional affairs, said: “As one of our three nominated charities this year, Petroc was delighted to host the launch of the Bear Hunt for CHSW. Their tireless work for children and the families is hugely appreciated by our students and staff, some of whom have had direct need of their services.
“The Bear Hunt is a great showcase for the enormously talented artistic community of the area and we are sure it will prove to be hugely popular as people seek to find the whole collection when they are out on location.
“The opportunity to meet some of the artists and sponsors, with refreshments provided and served by the outstanding hospitality and catering students at Petroc, was great experience.”