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SVA Staff

Jo Leahy, Artistic Director
Founder member, artist and director Jo Leahy has been a key strategic player in the formation and development of SVA. With energy and determination Jo Leahy and Co-Director, Neil Walker created a vital and innovative organisation from scratch - an organisation that has grown and developed to the point where it is now recognised as one of the most active and exciting arts organisations in the South West. Jo Leahy has project managed the development of the 1st and 2nd phase of the capital project. Jo Leahy previously worked in an artistic partnership undertaking commissions, performances and workshops. She has been an Advisor for the Artist-Led Initiative Advisory Service (ALIAS), and also has been active in the development work of the National Federation of Studio Providers and Turning Point South West.

Neil Walker, Artistic Director
Founder member, artist and director Neil Walker has been a key strategic player in the formation and development of SVA. In 1996 he and Co-Director, Jo Leahy had the vision to see the potential in the physically and culturally empty spaces in the heart of Stroud, a struggling market town, in the south west of England. Through Neil Walker's expert knowledge of SVA’s building and programming aims, he has project managed the development of the 1st and 2nd phase  of the capital project. Neil Walker has undertaken both private and public art commissions, and his work sits in the Cartier Foundation Collection, Paris. Neil Walker is also a Director for the Artist-Led Initiative Advisory Service (ALIAS).

Briony Fforde, Office Manager/ Media Coordinator
Briony Fforde studied a BA in Creative Arts in Bath Spa University then returned to Stroud to start working at Science Ltd (Damien Hirst). After 5 years of running a painting studio she went on to work for Other Criteria, an art based publishing company to manage a printing project. Briony started working for the SVA as office manager in March 2012 and started the role of press and media coordinator in October 2012.

Kel Portman, IT support
Kel Portman taught for 18 years as a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader in photography, digital imaging and printmaking at the London Institute.  In 1994 he spent a year at Montgomery College, Maryland, USA as a Fulbright Exchange Professor, and is a visiting lecturer at various UK institutions.  Kel currently works as a Training Consultant in digital imaging in the UK and lectures in Greece, Thailand, Cambodia and Europe in Photography, Painting and Drawing. He continues his own creative practice as a lead artist and curator with landarts collective Walking the Land. He has been involved in technical advisory work with SVA since 1996.

Peter Shaw, Open Studios coordinator
Peter joined SVA in January 2008 having previously worked as Coordinator for the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen and Suffolk Craft Society. Peter Shaw has co-ordinated Open Studios for the last 3 years, and also works on the Open Studios website and SVA database.

Anna Rennolds Cook, Finance officer
Based in Stroud since 1999 Anna joined the SVA team in January 2012 as finance administrator. After completing her BA in Fine Art with History of Art and Visual Culture from The University of Gloucestershire in 2005 Anna managed Kendrick Street Gallery and then Pixifoto’s Gloucester. She first worked with the SVA in 2006 to curate the Open Studios Exhibitions 3 years running. She has also been developing her own drawing and painting practices.

Dominic Thomas, Project coordinator/ website design
Dominic Thomas is an artist and social activist living near Stroud. His cross-disciplinary practice involves performance, video, installation, critical writing, web design, foraging, horticulture and cookery. He has been developing and co-ordinating projects, exhibitions and events in collaboration with SVA since 1996. These have included Some Vacant Accommodation, CROssoverUK with Gallery MK Zagreb, The Transnational Breakfast Club with group 22a Barcelona, Between Pop and Politics with the Pineapple project space Malmo, The Manifestation – co-curated with Richard Layzell and the recent CAMP 0.

SVA  Trustees

Neville Gabie is an artist who has been based in Stroud since 1991, although in recent years he has been working internationally through public commissions and residencies. He was MOMART Artist in residence at the Tate Gallery in Liverpool from 1999 -2000; Cabot Circus, Bristol 2006-09 and in 2008/09 he was artist in residence at Halley Research Station Brunt Ice Shelf as part of British Antarctic Survey Artists and Writers Programme. Neville supports SVA in developing projects and project based activities and in raising the critical platform of artists in the area and from further afield.

Andy Freedman is Head of Media at Cirencester College, and has worked as an Education and Training Officer, freelance writer and film and video maker.  He has made video productions for Gloucestershire County Council Social Services, Gloucester Prince’s Trust and South West Media Development Agency, and in 1996 set up New Media at Cirencester College, a DfE funded public access digital facility for the region.  He is a member of Gloucestershire Digital Arts Forum, and an External Verifier for the National Diploma in Media for Edexcel.  Andy is a college governor, Director of the charity Forest School Camps and Director of Stroud Cinema Trust. 

Ed Straw was a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers until 2009, where he worked with central government departments on public service reform and other issues.  He was formally leader of Entertainment and Media consulting in Europe.  He has acted as an Advisor to voluntary and arts organisations including The Notting Hill Carnival, National Theatre, Sonic Arts, and Arts Council England.  Between 1994 and 2000 Ed was Chair of Relate, and is currently Vice-President.  He is a trustee of the National Parenting and Family Institute and writes on relationships and parenting.  Ed has been connected with the Stroud area since 1988.

Grace Davies graduated with a degree in Critical Fine Art Practice from University of Brighton in 2001.  After completing a Curatorial internship at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona, she went on to work as Exhibitions & Promotions Officer for Ffotogallery in Cardiff.  Since then she has worked for galleries and organisations in Spain, Cardiff, Bristol and Swansea. Her most recent post was Project Manager/Curator for Locws International in Swansea.

Colin Glen is an artist and writer based in Stroud.  His recent exhibitions include 'The Clearing' project for site09 and a Rachel Howard curated group show at Trolley gallery, London. He writes for Artmonthly and a-n magazines and is studying for a research degree at the University of Bristol. His involvement with SVA began with a video bursary in 2003 and he was a studio member from 2005 to 2009.

Nick Pride has been involved in teaching and practicing art and design for most of his working life and is now Course Leader of the Foundation course at Cheltenham, part of the University of Gloucestershire.  He has run a Graphic Design studio, specialising in corporate design for the last 25 years, recently turning away from commercial practice to concentrate more on projects such as recent exhibitions and research based in Iran and Venice.  As well as helping to build successful courses at Stroud School of Art and at Cheltenham, Nick has initiated projects in Iran in 2005 and 2006, organising conferences and exhibitions to promote cultural understanding through a common interest in art. He has exhibited much of his own work internationally

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