CATHY Knapp-Evans has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the Arts in Wales in the New Year’s Honour list.
Cathy is the founder and Creative Director of Mid Wales Arts Centre in Caersws. Cathy said: “We see this as an award for the co-operative efforts of artists in Mid Wales who together have helped to develop access to the Arts in the area and raised awareness of the importance of the Arts for Society, Health and Well Being.
“We have created a centre of excellence in a rural area where they can collaborate and be proud to exhibit. This is a wonderful way to start 2021, it will hopefully be better year for everyone, a time to heal and meet together again. Mid Wales Arts came into existence as a Co-operative of artists. Coincidentally 2021 is the 250th Anniversary of Newtown hero Robert Owen, the founder of the Co-operative movement and we plan to mark it with a Sculpteen Commemorative project.
“It will also be a 100 years since Stefan Knapp 1921-1996 (Anglo- Polish artist) was born. We plan to celebrate this with a Centennial Retrospective of his work July-October. We were very fortunate in 2020 to have a space where we could offer access to the arts and art education.
“We received a Sustainability grant from the Arts Council of Wales to enable us to pay for all the PPE and reduced class sizes etc and as we watched people heal and grow we saw just how important art can be.”
Cathy was born in 1951 into a working class Manchester family, they were active members of the Co-Operative Society and believed strongly in education and social equality.
She studied painting and child education in Norwich, worked as an art therapist, social worker and teacher in the midlands before going to London where she worked in the fashion industry, became a successful model and met her late husband, the international artist Stefan Knapp.
She worked with him as an assistant, organising exhibitions and studying enamelling part time at Central School of Art, together they had 2 sons and she resumed her teaching career. Following his sudden death in 1996, she wrote a retrospective catalogue and organised a commemorative exhibition at the Polish Cultural Institute in London.
As a result of a fire in his old studio she began looking for a barn where she could exhibit and store a core collection of his large scale works and sculptures. In 2008 by a happy accident she saw Maesmawr, the advantages of the location and the potential of its farm buildings which were badly in need of repair. Shortly after moving in she met her future husband John Evans who has been her rock.
With encouragement from Lucy Bevan, Arts Officer for Powys, Stephen Albert, Welsh Tourism Inspector and Powys Arts Forum she took the plunge. Practical skills learned during her art teaching career came in useful, plaster and vats of white paint were ordered, with the help of her art student son Ivan she set to turning the farmhouse at Maesmawr into a gallery.
Nine months later the first exhibition: ‘Harvesting The Arts’, curated by Cathy and featuring Powys artists opened. In 2011 the Stefan Knapp Sculpture Shed was opened and since then other farm buildings have gradually been adapted to provide studios, further exhibition and event spaces with disabled facilities.
The gardens are nurtured by her husband John Evans, Molly Faulkner and volunteers and are transformed each year into a sculpture trail featuring the latest work by Sculpture Cymru. The woodland area has a circular trail exhibiting ceramic works by children and teenagers made at the centre. In 2021 Mid Wales Arts hopes to repair, insulate and heat the big sculpture hall so that it can provide a usable space all year round, build an outdoor classroom and an events space..