Take a moment on your Isle of Wight holiday to admire the skill of local artists and creators, which can be seen in galleries and potteries.
Many take inspiration from the natural beauty that surrounds them, creating stunning works on canvas, drawing on coastal themes. You will gain a real flavour of Island living from these master craftspeople!
In the centre of the Island you will find Quay Arts on the banks of the River Medina. View the latest exhibition before catching a live show and enjoying a spot of lunch on the terrace. Meanwhile visitors to the East Wight can admire the works at Monkton Arts in Ryde, which is a creative space, café, live music venue and gallery.
The rolling hills and crumbling cliffs of the West Wight are home to Dimbola, which celebrates a remarkable photographer and one of the world’s largest ever music events. And in the North Wight, you will find sailing as the inspiration for much of the artwork with a museum dedicated to coastal art.
There are also several galleries where works are for sale in towns such as Seaview, Cowes and Yarmouth. You might find that you can’t resist picking up a piece as a souvenir to remember a special holiday on the Isle of Wight!
Ready to see what the creative folk on the Island have been up to? Here are our favourite art galleries and studios on the Isle of Wight.
Quay Arts sits in an enviable location on the banks of the River Medina, in the Island’s county town of Newport. It has a history as an arts centre dating back nearly 50 years and remains a focal point for artists and creatives on the Island.
The building is a former brewers’ warehouse which was left abandoned after the closure of many of the Island’s railways in the 1960s. Today, it hosts a rolling exhibitions programme across two floors of galleries, which are free to visit. Head for the first floor, where you will find the Clayden Gallery and the West Gallery – which is the largest space at Quay Arts. Many of the exhibitions are influenced by the Island’s relationship with the sea. A recent exhibition saw the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust work with photographer Tom Harrison to celebrate the ‘People of the Solent’.
Live music, comedy and other performances are hosted in the Quay Arts’ Anthony Minghella Theatre. It was named after the Oscar-winning Director who was raised in Ryde. You can still buy the Minghella family’s famous ice creams all over the Island!
The Quay Arts craft shop is worth a visit, with an excellent range of handmade gifts including locally made jewellery and artworks. Many of them are produced at the nearby Jubilee Stores Studio which is home to seven of the Island’s artists.
Finally, take a bit of time to visit the Quay Arts café, the perfect spot to sit on the terrace on a sunny day and watch the world go by on the River Medina.
A wander through Seaview makes for a truly pleasant afternoon, with its small selection of much-loved shops and attractive esplanade. You may well spot youngsters learning how to sail on the Solent or playing on the wide sands at low tide.
Pop into Seaview Art Gallery on the highstreet to see some outstanding examples of local talent on display. The gallery provides a platform for new and established Isle of Wight artists working in a variety of media.Visitors can enjoy everything from impressionism to digital work, as well as realists and abstract artists.
Exhibitions at Seaview Art Gallery often reflect the season, with recent shows focusing on ‘Warm Spring Light’, ‘A Beautiful Summer’ and an ‘Autumn Extravaganza’. Unsurprisingly, many of the exhibitions are sea-themed, such as a show held as part of Seaview’s annual regatta, which sees the village coming together for a week of sailing, tug of war and rowing.
After visiting the gallery, take advantage of Seaview’s reputation for excellent dining. Aquitania at The Seaview Hotel is the holder of a Michelin Bib Gourmand, delivering high-quality dining at an affordable price. The Old Fort on Seaview esplanade is another popular choice, with outdoor seating to make the most of summer evenings by the sea.
Kendalls Fine Art sits in a prominent position in the famous sailing town of Cowes. Take a look around after a stroll through the town centre which is brimming with independent shops, or combine it with the walk along the esplanade which leads to Gurnard.
Unsurprisingly, Kendalls specialises in marine art. The more traditional side of the gallery includes scenes from around the Island’s coastal towns and villages such as Bembridge, St Helens and Compton Bay. There is also a selection of artworks based around Cowes Week, when thousands of sailors compete by day and party by night.
The gallery’s contemporary section includes more abstract artworks showing the thrill of yacht racing or the more peaceful side of the English coast.
If you are looking for a one-off souvenir, Kendalls also specialises in marine sculpture formed from wood, glass and metal.
Just up the road from Kendalls Fine Art is another showcase of local talent at the Bath Road Gallery. Its owner is artist James Lord who displays much of his own work at the gallery. He often creates pieces on reclaimed materials with a focus on abstract pieces, as well as more traditional seascapes.
His seascape work features much of the Isle of Wight coastline, including Yarmouth Pier, Newtown Creek, Sandhard Beach, the cliffs at Compton Bay, the Causeway at Freshwater and yacht racing in Cowes.
Meanwhile, the gallery’s manager – Pia M Christensen – works with silver to make one-off pieces of jewellery. Each is hand crafted and many come with a story of how they were inspired by the sea.
Yarmouth Gallery, Yarmouth
Visitors to idyllic Yarmouth can experience its wooden pier, 16th century coastal castle and small selection of independent shops. Explore the Harbour, which is a busy ferry port and home to the local lifeboat, or walk along to the tucked away Sandhard Beach.
Within the town’s narrow streets you will find Anne Toms’ Yarmouth Gallery. The gallery curates work from across the UK, but there is a strong local presence from artists who create with paint, ceramics, textiles and glass. Artists on display include Martin Swan, Edna Coatsworth and Mary Clemmensen who work on canvas and Frances Noon, Melanie Deegan and Paul Jenkins who are all sculptors.
Anne Toms’ own work makes up some of the collection with a selection of seascapes from the West Wight. Her work focuses on the Isle of Wight’s natural beauty, including several paintings of Compton Bay which was named as one of the world’s best beaches by the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Yarmouth Gallery is also the place to pick up greetings cards with a story behind them. Many are created by local artists and make for lovely little gifts and souvenirs.
The Classic Boat Museum is split into two halves, either side of the River Medina on the Island’s north coast.
The maritime gallery is in East Cowes while the working restoration museum is on the West side of the river (simply referred to as Cowes by locals). There is a floating bridge which connects the two towns and means that the gallery and the museum are about 20 minutes apart by foot. Keen walkers might prefer to take the Medina Estuary trail, which links the two towns.
The gallery’s main exhibition space features work dating back to the 16th century as well as more contemporary celebrations of sailing and coastal living. Highlights include a reproduction of the famous engraving of the sinking of the Mary Rose, which was commissioned by Sir Anthony Browne. Another exhibition tells the story of Joe Carstairs who was a champion motorboat racer in the 1920s. More recent works tell the story of the America’s Cup including a photograph of Roy Lichtenstein’s design work on a hull and spinnaker.
The attractive residence of Dimbola sits in the West Wight, overlooking the sparkling bay at Freshwater with its caves and crystal clear waters. Catch a preview with our Freshwater Bay webcam.
Dimbola was previously two historic houses before a central tower was built to create an impressive seaside home. Its most notable resident was Julia Margaret Cameron, who is a much celebrated Victorian photographer. She is credited with inventing the close up photograph and her portrait of Charles Darwin was used on the £10 note for many years. She was part of the so-called Freshwater Circle, which included a number of well known artists and writers including Alfred, Lord Tennyson and G.F. Watts.
Dimbola is home to several galleries including the Cameron and Ellen Terry Galleries which display some of the photographer’s most notable works. The Olympus and Charles H. Cameron Galleries feature a changing programme of work by photographers from around the world. Previous exhibits have featured collections by Terry O’Neill – famous for his Swinging 60s work – and Annie Leibovitz who was twice invited to photograph Queen Elizabeth II. Naturalist Chris Packham has ties to the Isle of Wight and has also displayed his work at Dimbola.
Finally, there is the Solo Isle of Wight Festival Gallery which displays images from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. It was hosted just down the road from Dimbola and is thought to have attracted a whopping crowd of around 600,000. Spare a minute for a selfie with the Jimi Hendrix statue out the front of Dimbola!
Arreton Barns offers a melting pot of local artisans, who work in a variety of media. Many can be seen working on projects and are happy to talk about their passion.
Start with a visit to Chad Powell’s gallery. His work is some of the finest photography you’ll find of the Isle of Wight, particularly his nighttime landscapes which show off the Island’s coastline through slow exposures. There is also a gallery which sells a selection of prints – Little Art at the Barn – and several shops selling homemade crafts.
To see experts at work, take a visit to Sculptglass or Isle of Wight Glass Studio which both produce dazzling one-off pieces. You can also see handmade masterpieces being finished in the Thomas P Cochran jewellers at Arreton Barns.
Finally, stop off at Creaturama to see the work of Anthony James. He creates dinosaurs and aliens using recycled materials, as well as displaying his own fine art. Some of his dinosaur creations have even appeared in the Jurassic World series of films!
Monkton Arts, Ryde
Monkton Arts is at the centre of Ryde’s creative community, serving as a café, music venue, gallery and studio space for two local artists. The centre opened in 2018 after converting a derelict printers into a buzzing space.
Monkton curates two art galleries, which change fortnightly. The Acons Gallery often has a strong local influence with the coastal location drawing much inspiration. Recent exhibitions have included a celebration of Appley Tower (a prominent folly on Ryde’s seafront) and an exhibition featuring portraits of 50 local residents. Meanwhile, the Sara-K Gallery often works with local schools to encourage a new generation of artists.
In the evening, Monkton Arts is a live music venue with a focus on jazz and rhythm and blues. During the day, the Lounge Café is the place for simple lunches and afternoon teas served with a hot chocolate or a flat white.
Neil Tregear is the founder and potter at Tregear Pottery, which is based in Niton in the South Wight. The village has an out-of-the-way vibe with a strong community spirit and a rugged coastline of isolated beaches.
Neil trained in Japan before settling on the Isle of Wight where he works with white stoneware clay. Each piece is handmade and many are decorated with coastal themes of whitebait, lobsters, seals, seagulls and arctic terns. Other work celebrates more varieties of wildlife of the Isle of Wight including hares, butterflies and sanderlings.
Visitors are welcome at the pottery, which can be found on Niton’s highstreet. You may even be shown around the workshop and learn a little about how the artworks are made. Tregear Gallery also hosts teaching sessions for first time potters or intermediates who want to improve their skills from an expert.
Ready for a whistle stop tour of art on the beautiful Isle of Wight? Discover our selection of charming cottages on the island.