Programme Rhythm

SAW’s programme of exhibitions and events is expansive, and always goes beyond simply displaying artworks. Our programme seeks to embody our commitment to explore all aspects of Art, Community Activism and Hospitality as important forms of enquiry and art practice.

We are committed to using art as a means of enquiry – this enquiry is two fold; we encourage enquiry into art itself as a useful and rich activity, but we also affirm the use of art as a tool and means of enquiry into the world. Art has the power to ask questions, formulate ideas and point to the joy, complexity and brokenness in the world. Art enquires in a unique way, asking questions in subtle, humorous and confrontational ways. It can be a tool for self-expression, or a means of mass protest. Art is a unique and universal human expression, and at SAW we believe this becomes richer when matched with the human gifts of discernment and investigation. This does not mean we believe art for art’s sake is without merit, rather that we have determined the importance of placing art and enquiry together as partners, and that the richness of discussing art, and its connection to all of life, including community, politics and theology, should be of equal standing to the artwork itself.

Below are details of our yearly programme rhythm, which gives an idea of what you can expect from SAW’s programme throughout the year. As part of this, we also have a commitment to Rest & Rhythm, which is an acceptance that we should not continually produce exhibitions and events for production’s sake, but rather focus on quality. This means we have periods in the year when the building is closed to visitors, to allow the team to focus on the next exhibition.

Our programme Rhythm

TAKE OVER – To complement SAW’s own programme, we have two months of Take Over from February to March, where we work with exhibition proposals which we feel reflect SAW’s ethos. Take Over is an opportunity to take charge of the gallery and stage a short exhibition or series of events in order to try new ways of curating and exhibiting. To find out more about Take Over click here.

RESIDENCY – From March to June we host an artist in residence that is chosen by a local democracy vote. The first 2 months are development of the project and the last 2 months are the visual outworking in the gallery space.

PAINT – We host an annual summer exhibition in July and August for our Painting for Fun group from work produced over the entire year.

SUPPORT – In the autumn we host annual exhibitions to support local art groups.

ENGAGE – From September to November we hold an exhibition and workshops led by an invited artist who is interested in Socially Engaged Practice.

PROCESS – Our outdoor gallery consists of seven large scale posters that respond to our current programme. These artworks have the potential to be a form of protest in order to laugh at power, talk back and weep out loud. The posters will be designed by emerging artists who are successful in the PROCESS open call.

Most parts of our programme embody more than one of these aspects, playing on the intersection of contemporary art, theological reflection and community activism. However we have divided the programme elements below into the categories they most strongly embody.  


OPEN – Most of our exhibitions open with a Bring & Share meal. We want this to be a real celebration of both the art and artist and so have moved away from the often alienating wine and chat previews.

QUESTION – For each exhibition or project at SAW we host a discussion evening which always includes sharing food together. These are developed in collaboration with each artist and take a personal format, encouraging artists to think about how they talk about their work in a more holistic way. These events are always informal, and allow participants to explore exhibitions more deeply. We encourage participants to engage in these events by bringing their own questions, knowledge and viewpoints. We very much discourage any sort of divide between artists and audience, and seek to make SAW a non-hierarchical space that encourages enquiry into different ideas and viewpoints.

CELEBRATE – Our yearly Shieldfield summer party collaborating with our local friends to celebrate the local community.  

Art and Enquiry

EXHIBITIONS – We use art as a mode of enquiry to explore all of life, including different viewpoints of theology, church practice, society and politics. These exhibitions include Take Over, Residency, Paint, Support, Engage and Process. Part of our enquiry includes written text within an exhibition context in the form of labelling, exhibition interpretation and publications. 

MIXING BOWL – A mixture of people exploring what Christian faith, art and community looks like outside of the traditional church context. We meet twice monthly at Shieldfield Art Works and always enjoy a meal together as part of our gathering. We creatively engage and reflect on a theme that has caught our attention, and pray together. Click here to see more about Mixing Bowl.

BLOG – We think that it is important to listen to and engage in the conversations happening in contemporary culture as well as thinking through every aspect of life. Therefore, we try to write a regular blogpost responding to contemporary and local issues.

LIBRARY – A growing collection of writing on the theoretical, theological and historical grounding to our work. A comfy area of learning for all visitors to SAW.

Community Activism

PAINTING FOR FUN  – Every Tuesday morning and afternoon, Shieldfield Art Works hosts free oil painting sessions for anyone – whether you have painted before or not!  The sessions are free and all materials are provided. Just come prepared (in old clothes) to have lots of fun! The sessions run every Tuesday 10.00am – 12 noon & 2.00-4.00pm. Click here to see more about Painting for Fun.

SHIELING – Shieldfield was once a ‘shieling ground’ – common land where people would graze their cattle and sheep in the summer months. The word ‘shieling’ refers to the huts or bothies where they would live during this period and were made out of the materials found directly in the landscape, such as heather, earth and stones. ‘Shieling’ is a symbol for reclaiming land in Shieldfield and bringing it back into community use. Shieling hopes to be a new community building and garden space at SAW. It is currently in its design process, being designed by the community with an architect. It seeks to be ecologically sustainable, using reclaimed and locally sourced materials.

DWELLBEING A creative, action-based response to the impacts of rapid urban development in Shieldfield. Click here to see more about Dwellbeing.