Sunningwell School of Art, Abingdon

Sunningwell School of Art, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
The Old School, Sunningwell,
OX13 6RD

About Sunningwell School of Art

‘an understated treasure, at the heart of the arts in rural Oxfordshire for 48 years’

Sunningwell School of Art is a thriving artist-led, visual arts charity with courses available in drawing, painting, sculpture and ceramics taught in a friendly and appealing environment by professional art tutors.

The school is treasured for its nurturing and inclusive atmosphere by all those who attend classes in one of its’ three bustling studios. Sunningwell School of Art has an active participation programme, sharing its’ expertise with people who would not otherwise have access to its services and facilities.

Sunningwell School of Art is situated four miles south of the City of Oxford, down winding country lanes, past the village pub and opposite a 13th-century church. Housed in a typically styled, old village school with high windows and polished wooden floors, reminiscent of old school days perhaps, but where now a vibrant, creative atmosphere prevails.

History of Sunningwell School of Art

When Sunningwell’s church school became vacant in 1972, a group of enthusiasts founded an art school. Initially, there were 30 students, and now over 400 enrol each term. The school is funded by tuition fees, fundraising events, small grants from local organisations and generous students.

What’s on offer

The age range of students spans from 5 years old to over eighty, and the three Rs have been replaced by drawing, painting, sculpture and pottery. The school offers daytime and evening classes and caters for all abilities – supporting, advising and encouraging students to develop their skills and talents. The walls of the well-lit studios, containing easels and tables, are covered with students’ artwork from absolute beginners to the most advanced.

The facilities

Behind the school, looking out over green fields, trees and farmland, stand the purpose-built pottery opened in 1986. This is well equipped and spacious, containing heavy-duty benches, potters’ wheels, hand tools, a variety of clays, two large kilns and a separate glaze room. The shelves are filled from floor to ceiling with students’ pots and sculptures in various stages of progress.

School ethos

The high-ceilinged Common Room, where breaks for refreshments are held, also exhibits students’ paintings, drawings, sculptures and pottery. Here will be found a happy, extremely friendly atmosphere with much praise and enthusiastic discussion over one another’s work. Students also have the opportunity to browse the extensive library of art books.

Events & exhibitions

The school takes part in the Oxford Artweeks Festival during the May bank holiday weekend. This exhibition of students’ work has proved to be so successful that it has become an annual event with several hundred visitors to the exhibition each year. A new feature of the art school calendar is International Sculpture Day in April, when the school opens its doors to families, artists and passers-by for a shared exploration of sculpture and sculptors.

Sunningwell School of Art is a unique and very special resource for the local area. We have an ongoing commitment to improve the facilities, to help students achieve their full potential and to respond to students’ changing needs and interests.

A special place like no other

Sunningwell has proved to be a place where inspiration can be found, talent nurtured, like-minded artists can meet, and long-standing friendships made.

More from The Oxford Magazine