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Ever since Sir Michael [Sadler] has made a home in Leeds, the art scene tingles and clatters with life and business. Sometimes I feel I blush with foolish pride when I’m asked where I work, and even though I’m just a typist, I feel associated with all that’s going on in Leeds these days. And he’s been unstoppable. Seriously: we have to look out because if the tram hits him or something Leeds might just go back to being dusty provincial town with nothing but clamouring textile mills to show to the world – against the better judgment and much enthusiasm of many art-lovers of the town. He has knowledge, foresight, connections, passion… and well… some money too.

Alfred Orage‘s Leeds Art Club has been awakened from its dormant state a couple of years ago, but a city’s art scene can’t live on enthusiastic reports about all the great things going on in London. We need to inject our collections with carefully chosen artworks and keep developing and working on our connections and collections, don’t we.

For one thing, Sir Michael’s arrival no doubt stimulated highfalutin Londoner Frank Rutter to apply for the post of director of the Leeds Art Gallery. He must have noticed the increased number of modern art sent to Leeds lately. So he’s here now and after sorting out (or at least cooling) the initial bad blood with the local town dignitaries, they really hit it off with Sir Michael and now they are working on establishing the Leeds Art Collection Fund. Wonderful news for Leeds, even if it’s seen as meddling by many: the art gallery committee seems to labour under the misapprehension that art will sprout by itself like a potato. Almost hard to believe but aside from commissioning the portrait of the previous chairman, they allocated no money for buying art for the Gallery whatsoever. So the gossip (which is more than gossip now) is that Rutter paired up with Sir Michael to circumvent the artless art committee by setting up this fund.

Most of the subscribers will no doubt include Art Club members. I know that the art critic of the Yorkshire Post as well as the Vicar of Leeds, among other members, are both interested. Leeds may not be London, but it is certainly more than a dust-bunny on the face of Yorkshire’s map if you care to meet all these good people enthusiastically devoting their time, talents and attention to the arts! I think the Art Fund will start up in November, and I’m hoping they’ll spend money on more worthy art than yet another chairman’s portrait by trusty old Herkomer.

Details about the fund established by Rutter and Sadler in: Tom Steele, Alfred Orage and the Leeds Art Club (Aldershot: Scolar), pp. 178-83.

You can see for yourself that Lavender has something to look forward to: The Leeds Art Fund Centenary is celebrated in the Leeds Art Gallery with a special display of works purchased through the fund. The exhibition entitled ‘Art in Our Time’ will be running until 26 August 2012.

Lavender was only 16 when the Art Gallery opened – was she there? We don’t know. Maybe she’ll tell us some time. This is what the Art Gallery looked like in 1888:

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