As a once Winchesterarian myself I enjoyed the bustle of the town, its welcoming faces and cute cafes enclosing comfy sofas with a good coffee safely rested in hand (or tea if you prefer). The smell of fresh coffee, chalk written walls and the bustle of Jewry Street through a pane of glass can really only mean one place. The Art Café, Winchester.
As residents of Winchester, new or old, you enquire through the place in search of comfort. Somewhere I would definitely recommend is here and why? Well let’s talk to John Hayes, one of the proud owners. Not only is he the owner though, no no, he is also a therapist and curator to both the Jewry Street Gallery (located in the same building as the Art Café) and the Short Film Festival. Gosh. Let’s get cracking with the questions then.
Nicola Manuel: The Art Café is definitely a new and exciting feature, which has been added to Winchester town. How did you come about the idea to start this venture in the beginning and why?
John Hayes: The Art Café and the Jewry St Gallery were born out of the ashes of the old Coffee House. It’s a Phoenix of sorts, with a new name and dedicated contemporary art gallery, but the same exceptional coffee. Our aim was to create the kind of watering hole we would visit ourselves – one with the buzz of cultural activity, the smell of fresh coffee, the hum of conversation and the sound of glasses tinkling.
NM: Located in Jewry Street you must find a diverse range of customers from commuters to students. Who is it that you really aim to cater for?
JH: Anyone and everyone. I have tried to reflect this inclusive philosophy through the Jewry St Gallery by inviting a range of artists including an urban expressionist, a satire artist, a surrealist, a graffiti artist, a classical portrait artist and a landscape artist.
NM: As a therapist yourself you must find great success with the Art Café and the comfort it lends towards people. What have you found to be the biggest achievement through starting up the café?
JH: For me, the most satisfying aspect of the ArtCafé it that it’s a place where you can exchange pleasantries, share smiles and engage in idle chit-chat with people you have never met before, without feeling you are breaking a taboo. No mean feat in Winchester!
NM: If you were to describe your venture in three words they would be…
JH: Home from home
NM: The creative sector in Winchester is quite expanse with the School of Art homed just down the road and galleries dotted around the centre of town. What can people find from your gallery downstairs and how can they get involved?
JH: The Jewry St Gallery is a stepping stone gallery that exhibits and promotes dedicated, emerging local and national artists. The work on display covers a diverse mix of exciting, edgy art including figurative and abstract work in painting, sculpture and photography. Each year the gallery exhibits 11 collections. Artist who wish to be considered for showing a collection of their work are invited to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
NM: What would your dream exhibition be, time and money spared?
JH: As curator of a stepping stone gallery, my dream exhibition would be of a returning artist who, on the back of exhibiting here, had gone on to bigger things. Next year we have such an exhibition by the satire artist Mark Michael. His first ever show was with us in May 2012. He has since been dubbed as ‘one of Britain’s best young artists’ by the art- investor.com and he has several exciting exhibitions lined up for 2012/14. Being an artist can be really tough, so to be a curator involved in an artist’s success story is an incredibly satisfying and humbling experience.
NM: Why Winchester?
JH: Long story. It was an opportunity that arose and my heart told me to grab it.
NM: You have achieved so much in your career with two published books, an art café and curatorship completed. What is your greatest achievements and is there much more we can expect from you for the future?
JH: My greatest achievement, without doubt, is my son Sami. An achievement I share with my gorgeous wife, Denize. We are a multi-cultural family and have had to cross many bridges, and will no doubt have to cross a few more. Still, it’s what gives me most happiness. As for my own personal ambitions, I have a new book coming next year entitled, ‘The Art of Being Essential’, my second book in ‘The Art of…” trilogy. While continuing with my therapeutic practice, doing a few ‘talks’ and running the Jewry St Gallery, I will also be enjoying my role as agent to a couple of exceptional artists. These are just my plans, of course, possibly nothing to do with what actually happens.
Quick round questions now. If I were to say the following words to you, you’d say which word in response…
Winchester: Privileged Coffee
A café mixed with the brilliance of art; personally my ideal and surely yours too, even if just a little. So instead of going to your regular café for a slurp of a hot drink, head up to the Art Café in Jewry Street to check out their brilliant place as well as what upcoming events they’re holding. A place of comfort, warmth and a real creative buzz it’s perfect for the coming months with the factor of assurance that when leaving the door it will be returned upon definitely more.