An Exhibition in The Beacon Viewed by Thousands of Shoppers

An arts charity that works with people who have mental health disabilities has thanked The Beacon in Eastbourne for its sponsorship that has enabled a residency and exhibition in its shop units.

During this time, Compass Arts has been able to exhibit some of the work of its 135 members, talk to shoppers and put mental health on the radar of thousands of visitors to their temporary studio in the shopping centre.

“It has been an amazing experience for our artists to have a studio in the middle of The Beacon shopping centre,” explained Compass artistic director Fenya Sharkey. “We have been going for 20 years and this has been the best spot ever for us. We have had people gazing in through the window and we have had visitors who ventured in to take a closer look and talk to the artists about their works. A rich and rewarding experience.”

“When we were invited to partner with the Towner Gallery for Eastbourne ALIVE’s program of exhibitions and events to support the hosting of the Turner Prize, The Beacon was able to provide an additional unit”. The 1,000 sq ft unit came with “immaculate” white walls. “This is an artist’s dream … so much potential to curate and be ambitious with the scale of the art,” Fenya said. “The exhibiting artists have had multiple traumas and for some, this has had significant impact, changing the course of their lives. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be displaying artwork in this wonderful shopping centre. I am so grateful to the Centre Management team, in particular Mark and Hend, for all their support.”

Based in Eastbourne, Compass Arts is an artist-led organisation for anyone vulnerable to social isolation, lived trauma, mental illness, and hidden disabilities. “Our tried and tested approach recognises that people feel most empowered when given independence, responsibility and are at the ‘giving’ end of care,” Fenya explained.

“We have nine professional artists delivering a weekly program across several sites, free of charge and without any expectation of the participants. Our spaces are always safe, supportive, and compassionate and provide new direction and skills in people’s lives.”

The unit in The Beacon, opposite New Look, allowed the artists to show their work to more than 30,000 visitors and window shoppers. The artists all have complex trauma and a diagnosis of mental illness.

“This was such a wonderful opportunity for our artists to meet and talk to visitors about the work of Compass Arts,” Fenya said. “The exhibition was called The Big Conversation and visualised what people are talking about in the ordinary and every day of life. The struggles and barriers that many of us face and which can have a devastating effect on our artists. They experience these issues as being specifically connected to the stigma around mental illness. Being in the exhibition and talking to visitors and shoppers has helped everyone to be more confident in voicing the struggles of living outside of the mainstream. Visitors to the exhibition loved what they saw and were happy to ask the artists about their work.”

Beacon General Manager Mark Powell said he was delighted the exhibition had gone so well. “We wanted to support our local artists, especially in light of The Turner Prize Awards coming to Eastbourne,” Mark said.

“When this unit became available, we thought it would be perfect for Fenya and Compass Arts. We have been so pleased to have them in the centre. The unit allowed them to show off their wonderful works of art across various formats.”

Eastbourne Borough Council leader Stephen Holt thanked The Beacon for hosting Compass Arts. “The Turner Prize Awards attracted thousands of visitors to the town. It is great that we were able to show this new audience the importance we place on arts in the town, and I am grateful that The Beacon played a strong part in that.”

For more information about Compass Arts, visit