A Fakenham artist has been left “shocked” at a decision to ban her work from an exhibition at Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham, in December.
Terri Broughton, a former King’s Lynn Academy headteacher, said she had been planning her exhibition, of paintings which show a variety of people wearing gas masks, at the park since Easter.
But the park has now cancelled the exhibition after they saw the paintings, which Mrs Broughton says they deemed as “unsuitable for public consumption”.
Mrs Broughton said: “The ban came as a total shock to me. I did warn Pensthorpe at the very beginning that my paintings were not of the usual birds and landscapes.
“They never asked to see a sample of my work. Had they done so, they could have made a decision to decline my exhibition from the start.
“It is the job of an artist to challenge and shed light on the human condition and it is not acceptable to pull the exhibition at this late stage.”
Mrs Broughton said her 83-year-old sister-in-law and her seven-year-old granddaughter had served as models for the paintings – one of which is a take on the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ proverb.
“I’m a story-teller, I tell stories. I used to do it when I was a teacher, and now I do it through paintings,” she said.
“This won’t stop me from painting, but it’s just an inconvenience.”
She added: “There’s nothing sordid in my paintings.”
While she has always been artistic, Mrs Broughton only began painting at the start of the year.
“I’ve always wanted to be a painter,” she said.
“My father was a very good painter but someone said to me ‘you are not a painter’ so I always avoided painting.”
She is currently completing an intensive year-long oil painting diploma at the Norfolk Painting School, under the eye of course director Martin Kinnear.
“I’m totally privileged to be taught by him,” Mrs Broughton added.
After a number of talks on the situation, Mrs Broughton said the park did offer to show her paintings during a week when children would be at school.
She said: “After a series of internal meetings, the Pensthorpe management backtracked, offering to exhibit my paintings mid-week, but not at the weekend, when most people would be visiting the park.
“This was also on the condition that I placed a notice outside saying that children were not to go in and it was not for people of a nervous disposition.
“This was not part of the original agreement and was a non-starter because the hundreds of people I had invited work during the week and were making plans to come at the weekend.”
Mrs Broughton added: “I’ve been waiting for this exhibition and getting excited about it.”
“It’s not all about the money but I paid £1,000 to get a website together so I was ready for the exhibition, and I have also had posters and cards made up.”
She is now looking for a different venue to host her paintings.
A spokeswoman for Pensthorpe Natural Park said the business “passionately champions” local artists, and has held several exhibitions and sculpture trails showcasing local talent within the past year.
She added: “We were looking forward to hosting Terri Broughton’s exhibition in December but on final submission of her selection of artworks along with an accompanying press release, which we hadn’t seen before, entitled ‘Norfolk artist launches Christmas exhibition of ‘challenging paintings’ at Pensthorpe’, we felt that the nature of some of her work may have been inappropriate for some of our young family visitors.
“This decision was not taken lightly by the senior management team.
“First and foremost we are a visitor attraction and not an art gallery, where the general public would more easily accept seeing such hard-hitting and thought-provoking work – a lot of which contained images of children in a possibly disturbing context.
“Rather than refuse to exhibit Terri’s work we asked whether Terri would consider a parental guidance warning, which would allow our parent visitors to make their own decision. Sadly, Terri declined.
“Obviously we can’t speak for all of our visitors but our visitors come first and we have young children and their parents to consider.
“We are sorry that we weren’t the right fit for Terri’s work and we hope she is able to find a new venue so as not to disappoint her expecting fans.”