One of the region’s most elegant private homes is preparing to open its grounds to the public as a sculpture park.
This weekend about 100 arts professionals have been invited to Cheeseburn Grange, near Stamfordham, Northumberland, to see work by leading artists including David Mach, creator of Darlington’s famous brick Train sculpture.
The event is a warm-up for a planned public open weekend in October.
Lying behind Cheeseburn’s emergence as a visual arts venue is the passion of its owner, Joanna Riddell, who has been working with North East arts consultant Matthew Jarratt.
“I’ve always been passionate about the arts but growing up it was slightly squished,” she said.
“It wasn’t encouraged although I can remember at school going up to London to see a (Salvador) Dali exhibition when I was 15.
“I was bowled over and so wanted to learn more and understand more but unfortunately there was nobody who could teach me.
“I’ve just always loved sculpture and I love to see people interacting with it in a way they don’t with painting.
“I remember an Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy. I could have spent hours just watching how people reacted to the work.”
Anish Kapoor is the artist behind Temenos, the landmark sculpture in Middlesbrough.
Joanna moved to Cheeseburn Grange 25 years ago when her husband, Simon, inherited it from his uncle, Philip Riddell.
Since then, she said, there had been “project after project” to put the Grade II* listed building in good order and restore gardens that had been given over largely to agriculture.
“But I suppose this whole idea was born out of my relationship with where I live and that it’s an enormous privilege to live here.
“It’s certainly not a place you’d necessarily have gone and bought, even if you’d had the money, because this has been serious hard graft.
“But I feel we are really custodians of the place and it will be nice to let other people come in and appreciate it.”
As Simon Riddell concentrates on farming 600 of Cheeseburn’s 2,000 acres, Joanna has worked with Matthew on installing sculptures in the 11 acres of garden.
It is there that visitors will see sculptures by artists including Joseph Hillier, Andrew Burton and Colin Rose.
Works by David Mach, one of Britain’s most celebrated artists, are exhibited in the new Cheeseburn Project Space and Cheeseburn Stables Gallery, new arts facilities fashioned from some of the property’s 18th Century outbuildings.
They include the maquette (or artist’s model) for Log Cabin, a new sculptural work inspired by the woods at Cheeseburn and possibly the first step towards the creation of a full-sized building or pavilion made from fallen trees.
In the old hayloft visitors will see Stag Head, the latest in a series of match head sculptures which have been shown and collected internationally.
As well as the artists, Joanna invited Northumberland poet Linda France to visit Cheeseburn to respond in writing to the gardens and the art.
Future plans for Cheeseburn Grange include sculpture workshops, lectures by artists and an educational programme with a full summer opening schedule pencilled in for next year.
After this weekend’s visit by invited figures in the arts, the public will be able to visit on the weekend of October 11 and 12 between 11am and 4pm.
Admission will be free but visitors can download a map of the grounds from www.cheeseburn.com and are advised to wear sensible footwear and that the terrain is not fully accessible to wheelchairs.