A RENOWNED Scottish art club, which has helped to launch the careers of many successful Border artists, is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a free exhibition this July and a programme of workshops from October to March, in its ancient home, Old Gala House.

The Studio Club, which celebrates new and well-known Border artists, has its origins in evening classes tutored by James Henderson, who was at that time the Principal Teacher of Art at Galashiels Academy.

The Club was formed shortly after the second world war as part of a drive to put Galashiels at the heart of the Borders cultural scene. The first exhibition took place when Old Gala House was bought in 1949 by The Arts Club, a group of local businesspeople who recognised the need for a cultural hub for visitors and locals alike.

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Many Studio Club members join as beginners and some have gone on to be professional artists, including Ebenezer Young (EY) Johnston (a leading Tweed designer, who worked with Couture makers – including Chanel, Christian Dior, Mary Quant and Jean Muir); Melville Brotherson (a globally acclaimed painter), Liz Douglas (an award-winning artist) and Janet Cleghorn (a still life artist who once worked in textile design).

Accomplished artist and one-time President of the Scottish Society of Women Artists, Nan Fergusson was also a founding member. David Henderson, James and Nan’s son, who was recently appointed Acting Chair of the Studio Club said: “The Art and Studio Clubs’ founding members wanted to put Galashiels at the heart of the cultural scene in the Borders, not only for visitors, but for the sake of the people living there.

“I believe they were inspired by the success of the Dumfries and Galloway Fine Arts Society, which was founded in 1922 by my maternal grandmother Glasgow Girl Chris J Fergusson alongside Jessie M King, critic EA Taylor, Glasgow Boy Edward Hornel and others.

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They may have also been influenced the Arran Summer School with Jessie M King, where artists like my parents often painted ‘en plein air’.

“I have great childhood memories of accompanying the Studio Club on outings around the Borders, while the artists painted outdoors.

“My mum and dad would be so proud to see the Studio Club still going strong 75 years on.”

Artist Katherine Awlson, whose mum was also an early member added: “The Club provides an opportunity for amateur local artists to showcase their work and to learn from the professional artists who are invited to come along to the Club to do demonstrations, take a workshop, or talk about their work. Club members also run workshops, sharing their expertise.”

The Club’s 75th anniversary exhibition, which opens in Old Gala House on July 2, will showcase a wide range of work by new and well-known Border artist, from landscapes, still life, and portraits to abstract painting. The Club will also continue its connection to Galashiels Academy by displaying winners of the school’s Young Artist Award.

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Pamela Ingles, Principal Teacher of Art & Design, Galashiels Academy: “The Studio Club provides a fantastic opportunity for aspiring young artists to display their outstanding work alongside professional artists. It’s the perfect platform for our award-winning young artists to begin to realise the full potential for their artistic development beyond school.”

In 1957, now one of the Club’s longest standing members, Lena Scott was among five higher art pupils invited join the Studio Club by Neil Foggie, the then Galashiels Academy’s Principal Teacher of Art. Lena said: “It was brilliant to be part of the Studio Club at such a young age. It really helped me to take my painting to the next level. It was incredibly inspiring to take part alongside some brilliant professional artists.”

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The Studio Club continues to support and inspire new and established artists of all ages. Committee-member, former tattoo artist and unpaid carer Ailsa Turner-Gibb, is one of the newer members of the Club and a former pupil of Earlston High School. She said: “The Studio Club offers an incredibly welcoming environment. It helps artists of all ages, abilities and incomes to access opportunities for inspiration and artistic development that not many other places offer in the Borders.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting and learning from other local artists, and the Club’s workshops have allowed me to learn more about a wide variety of different techniques, which have helped me to really grow as an artist.”

The Studio Club will host a number of new workshops and presentations by professional artists and Club members who are willing to show their techniques and pass on knowledge on Thursday evenings from October 2023 to March 2024. These are open to all no matter age or ability.

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The Studio Club’s 75th anniversary exhibition is free to view from 2 to 21 July (Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm) at Old Gala House in Galashiels, and their full programme of 2023/24 workshops and presentations will be published later this year.

Annual membership of the Studio Club is £40 and each workshop or presentation costs £5 for visitors.

For more information or to join the Studio Club contact Jennifer Henderson 07958 241798