What exactly is an ‘Art Trail’?

Over recent years you may have seen adverts for art trails taking place in Bristol. Many of you will have made a visit to one or more of these events. But if you haven’t, and you would like to know more about what an art trail involves, read on.

Art on the Hill poster 2014

In this wonderful creative city there are no less than 8 art trails that take place annually. The oldest is the The Front Room Art Trail, which was first held in 2001. The newest is the BS9 Arts Trail, which took place for the first time this year.

St Werburghs Art Trail 2014 prog cover

Here is a list of the art trails in Bristol with the time of year that they usually happen and the area that they cover:

BS9 art trail logo

So, what happens at an arts trail?

Essentially, an arts trail involves artists opening their homes to show you their work. Groups of artists based in a particular area of the city arrange to open their homes to the public during a specific weekend and a map is provided to show you where to go and which artists you can see.


Over the years arts trails have grown and developed – and each trail has its own unique identity based on the ideas and vision of the community that organises it.

Arts Trail 2014 A5 Flyer-1

Some arts trails are focussed very clearly on the showing and selling of work in the visual arts. Some are community events that include many different art forms and run workshops and performances for both children and adults.

NBA logo

Some artists invite you into their homes and some artists show their work in venues such as church and community halls, cafes and other public spaces.

Front Room art trail 2014 banner

All art trails provide a great opportunity to do a whole range of things.

  • They give you an opportunity to visit an area of the city that you are less familiar with and meet the people who live there.
  • They give you a chance to meet Bristol artists, designers and makers. You can ask them questions about their work (they love that!) and buy original pieces direct from the person who made them.
  • You get a chance to see the homes of some of Bristol’s creatives (a brilliant opportunity to be a bit nosy!)
  • There is always a plentiful supply of food and drink to be consumed along the trail. This can be found in cafes and other food related businesses that form an important part of the trail, or in the artists’ homes, where homemade cake is often available!

SBA logo

So, if you haven’t made a visit to any or all of the art trails listed above why not take a look at their websites and make a note in your diary. Don’t worry about getting to all of the venues in each trail. Use the printed map, downloadable map, or in some cases, the ‘app’ to plan a subset of venues to visit, to see the work that particularly interests you.

Do feel free to have a good look at the work on show – and ask questions about the work, if you want to know more about it. The artist won’t be offended if you don’t buy something, but it is always a good idea to take a business card just in case you decide to buy a piece of work after the trail has finished. I often buy a greetings card from an artist whose work I like. Sometimes I have gone back the following year and bought something larger from the same artist.

If you are a Bristol-based artist who is interested in showing your work at an art trail, it is a good idea to visit the website of the trail in question. Some of the Bristol art trails are open to artists from all parts of the city, while others restrict their membership to those living in the trail area. Most trails welcome people who like organising events such as these – and people are always needed to join committees and help make trails happen.

Art trails are just one of the many ways that the creative people of Bristol get together to share their work. There is always so much to see and you won’t regret making a trip to one or more trails throughout the year.

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