by The Edge
Relaxing is what comes to mind when one thinks of Bath Spa, but that doesn’t mean the city’s contemporary art scene ever relaxes on their creativity. Slotted between Roman baths and luxury resorts are numerous spaces for culture and the arts that see an array of both local and international talent.
One such space is the Edge, a contemporary arts centre home to the Andrew Brownsword Gallery. It’s a creative hub bringing together arts and research, inspiring creativity and discovery through exhibitions, performances and workshops. Based at the University of Bath campus, the centre encourages and nurtures arts and science collaborations, providing a place where artists, audiences, researchers and academics can find new perspectives and fertile ground to showcase new thinking and ideas. Here, mechanical engineers meet sculptors interested in moving structures, architects work with artists to shed new light on the nature of play and how architecture influences it, and artists bring together inventing and engineering expertise to create artworks of scientific complexity.
Here are some top recommendations from across Bath, chosen by Nicole Mawby and Sophie Erin Evans from the Edge Team.
The Holburne Museum is all about changing lives through art, bringing together their permanent collection and special exhibitions. It was the city’s first public art gallery and since 2011 it’s beautiful Grade I listed building includes a striking modern glass extension full of natural light.
44AD is a hub for art lovers to attend previews, discover local talent, and see a dynamic programme of exhibitions. This arts enterprise was created to support emerging contemporary artists and their work and often acts as a creative hotspot for the arts community of the city.
A free public gallery in the heart of the city, the Victoria Art Gallery houses Bath and North East Somerset’s collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts.
A short walk from the city centre is an ever-changing gallery and workspace, offering classes and showcasing work from studio artists and beyond. If you want to step behind the gallery their open studios fall at the end of September. With over 50 studios to explore, you’ll find a treasure trove of painters, ceramicists, sculptors, photographers, printmakers and jewellers to meet.
From fancy footwear to Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood dresses, the Fashion Museum offers a ticket to travel back in time. This world-class collection of historic fashionable dress spans from the 17th century to the present day and is free to enter with a Resident’s Discovery Card.
Take a walk down Walcot Street, described as the ‘Arts Quarter’ of the city, to discover street art. Currently, you’ll find a large piece by Stanley Donwood, a British artist who has created Radiohead’s album covers and promotional materials. However, street art is a rare find in Bath due to the city being inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1987. But even without the colourful adornments of street art, the city itself is pretty delicious eye candy.
World Heritage Sites are described as ‘places of outstanding universal value to the whole of Humanity’, with other famous examples being the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon. Bath won this title due to its Roman Remains, 18th century architecture and town planning, its social setting, hot springs and landscape letting, all of which can be admired without an entrance fee. But if you’re looking for something a little bit grittier, Bristol, home to Banksy and many other street artists is only a 12-minute train ride away.
Sweet study spots
A bright, open space with delicious food. Settle down with a drink, a salad, sandwich or a slice of home-made cake in the heart of this creation centre.
Filled with art-house books, magazines, and art on the walls, the two Society Café’s in Bath provides a beautiful atmosphere. They also serve exquisite teas, as well as speciality coffee, juices, cakes, pastries, freshly prepared sandwiches.
Independent speciality coffee shop and bakery. Make sure you try their cruffin (a croissant muffin combination!)
A small independent vegan cafe in the heart of Bath. Serving food, speciality coffee, handmade juices and home-baked gluten-free and vegan treats.
Selling local produce hand-picked by staff, if you can tear yourself away from the extensive book collection, this is the perfect place for book lovers to enjoy a coffee and cake.
Alternative and art cinemas
Dating from 1935, The Little Theatre shows arthouse and mainstream films, plus live screenings. This charming Picturehouse cinema is reputed to be built on catacombs and was featured in the Wes Anderson film, Fantastic Mr Fox.
Swanky art-house cinema featuring plush sofa seating & in-theatre dining, plus a cafe & a bar. Tivoli also offers a Director’s Screening Room which means you can hire your very own twelve-seater private lounge to see any current releases or seasonal classics.
Adornments for your calendar
The Bath Fringe is a festival of all the arts, with few rules as to what should be in or out. Experience circus, dance,film, theatre, walks, talks and workshops. You can also experience visual arts over the same fortnight at the Fringe’s little sister Fringe Arts Bath.
Bath’s annual visual arts festival. Actively promoting and celebrating contemporary art, showcasing early-career artists and curators, and those who find it difficult to break into (or prefer to operate outside of) the gallery based art scene.
A celebration of street theatre, circus and dance as part of Bath Fringe. This popular event takes over the streets of Bath, bringing the city alive with creativity, laughter and cheer each year.
A festival of music and literature with a diverse programme; bringing some of the finest international musicians, speakers and writers to the city.
A night of free entertainment including over 2,000 performers across 30+ venues and 3 outdoor arenas. It is Bath’s largest arts event and free for everyone to attend.