An art tour of Harlow
For art-lovers looking to unearth some of the UK’s hidden gems, Harlow in Essex is the perfect destination. The town prides itself on the strong emphasis it places on the arts, with impressive sculpture, paintings and exhibition centres dominating the cultural landscape of this bustling urban centre.
Uncover some history in one of the UK’s newest towns with this list of the best cultural highlights Harlow has to offer:
Harlow Art Trust Sculpture Collection
Harlow’s truly remarkable commitment to showcasing the arts to the public is demonstrated by the incredible collection of sculptures dotted around the town. Each has been acquired by the Harlow Art Trust and all are free for visitors to enjoy.
Many of these works are by artists of national significance, including Henry Moore’s Harlow Family Group at the Civic Centre – a well-known stone sculpture that reflects the significance of the family unit after the Second World War – which looks out onto Elisabeth Frink’s Boar, located in the Water Gardens opposite. Just a ten-minute drive from our Park Inn by Radisson Harlow Hotel and with plenty of convenient parking, Harlow’s Water Gardens is a highlight of shopping and contemporary architecture in the town.
Other artists whose sculptures decorate the town centre include the sensual sculptor Ralph Brown, FE McWilliam and Lynn Chadwick, who was renowned for his abstract steel sculptures – together they form an impressive array of works that provides unique stopping points as you make your way around the town on foot.
The Gibberd Gallery
Run by the Harlow Art Trust, the Gibberd Gallery is a purpose-built, contemporary exhibition space within Harlow Civic Centre. A state-of-the-art facility, and a must-see for all visitors, the gallery is home to a permanent collection of stunning watercolours by notable artists including John Nash, Edward Bawden and Elizabeth Blackadder.
The Gibberd Gallery also hosts regular events and exhibitions, so you’ll never see the same thing twice. This summer will see the exhibition Through My Eyes open at the gallery, a powerful showcase of some of the country’s most talented portrait painters.
With its beautiful riverside setting just north of the centre of Harlow, Parndon Mill is an attractive and thriving hub of the visual arts where artists, craftspeople, designers and architects come together to produce and exhibit their works.
The gallery provides a welcoming space for resident artists to showcase their ability, with regular six-week exhibitions in an array of media including paintings, original prints, sculpture and highly-skilled glasswork. If you’d like to take some artwork home with you, Parndon Mill has a selection of original pieces on sale, supporting local artists share their vibrant work.
St John’s Arts & Recreation Centre
Set in a secluded area of Old Harlow, the tranquil St John’s Art & Recreation Centre has a programme of arts-based activities including concerts, exhibitions and workshops. Home to the local choral group Harlow Chorus as well as a venue for jazz and ragtime concerts, this haven of talent is a peaceful retreat from the bustle of the town centre.
St John’s is also home to a striking collection of sculptures, and if you fancy trying your hand at being creative, there’s always the opportunity to take part in a painting class yourself. Keep an eye on the calendar for what’s coming up.