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Arts and Culture in St Ives - From Maritime History to Modernist Art

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St Ives is steeped in seafaring history that dates back to the Middle Ages, and this maritime heritage lives on in the smoked fish and local mussels dishes on show at food festivals. Culture lovers can enjoy St Ives September Festival, or February’s traditional hurling of the silver ball. Tate St Ives displays works from artists like Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, who lived close by in the 1900s.

Art in St Ives, old and new

 

The art scene in St Ives dates back to the early 1800s with visits from artists like J M W Turner, but the scene gained momentum in 1877 when the Great Western Railway gave the town a connection to London via St Erth. Since then, artists have flocked to the region, inspired by its light, rugged coast, and natural materials. This is evident through the town’s variety of diverse galleries and studios like Leach Pottery, which was founded by the British potter Bernard Leach, who resided in St Ives from the 1920s until he died in 1979.

 

St Ives Arts Club

 

The oldest arts club in St Ives dates back to 1890 and has survived 2 world wars and many coastal storms. Open to all art forms, from painting to writing, the club regularly holds exhibitions, workshops, classes, talks, and films.

 

Westcott's Quay 
St Ives 
TR26 2DYTel: +44 1736 799320

 

St Ives Arts Club website

 

Tate St Ives

 

Tate St Ives opened in 1993 to celebrate modernist art that was brought to the region by artists like Barbara Hepworth. Overlooking Porthmeor Beach, the gallery exhibits modern and contemporary works, and there are guided tours, workshops, and talks.

 

Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
 TR26 1TG. Tel: +44 1736 796226

 

Tate St Ives website

Museums and seafaring history

 

Rich in maritime history, St Ives has plenty of stories to tell, from smuggling to fishing, and these are portrayed through its museums and guided walks. Learn about shipwrecks, Smeaton’s Pier, and the legend of St Ia’s church.

 

St Ives Museum

 

Situated close to Smeaton’s Pier, this former pilchard-curing cellar features collections and artifacts from the Hain Steamship Company, the mining industry, and boats that were crafted by skilled locals.

 

Wheal Dream
, St Ives St TR26 1PR. Tel: +44 1736 796005

 

St Ives Museum website

 

Food, music, and arts festivals

 

St Ives comes to life during fun-filled annual festivals that occur throughout the year, and the dazzling New Year’s Eve firework celebrations - right on the harbor - attract thousands of appreciative spectators. From showcasing local beer and seasonal seafood, to traditional Cornish folk music and contemporary dance, festivals cater to all ages and showcase the town’s spirit, culture, and heritage.

 

St Ives Food and Drink Festival

 

Every May on Porthminster Beach, this festival showcases the region’s best food and drink producers. With live cooking demonstrations, talks, stalls, and live music, there’s also a market to sample local St Endellion cheese, ice creams, ciders, and fresh fish.

 

Porthminster Beach, St Ives. Tel: +44 1872 888089 

 

St Ives Food and Drink Festival website

 

St Ives September Festival

 

This annual festival celebrates music, poetry, theatre, art, comedy, and dance in venues across the town. Since launching in 1978, the 2-week event has grown into one of Cornwall’s largest festivals, with more than 300 events happening, day and night.

 

St Ives (various venues). St Ives September Festival website