Sally Davies, Learning Outreach Curator, introduces Josef Herman, the inspiration behind the first of the learning outreach projects for Archives & Access

In 1944 the Polish artist Josef Herman arrived in south Wales for a two week visit and ended up staying for 11 years.

What was it that drew him to the place? And what was it about the mining town of Ystradgynlais that convinced him to make a new life there, and most importantly to make the people there the main focus of his art?

As these moving interviews show, Ystradgynlais provided a welcoming and inspiring home for Herman, a refugee who had spent six unsettled years moving across Europe.

Continuing connection

The special connection between the artist and the town continues today through the work of the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru, which was established in 2002 to celebrate his life and work and foster participation in the arts.

As part of the Archives & Access project, the Foundation is now working collaboratively with us to explore Herman’s extraordinary archive collection of sketches and drawings, which you will be able to discover for yourself when they are digitised and published online later this year.

You can get involved

Through a series of artist-led projects, workshops and events under the banner of Mining Josef Herman, the Foundation is inviting people to contribute their knowledge and creativity to this exploration of the archive.

Activities so far have included a series of workshops with the Oriel Gelf Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, which saw adults with learning disabilities exploring Herman’s artistic techniques and visiting a colliery museum to experience the artist’s working environment first-hand, and a large drop-in event at the Welfare, Ystradgynlais’s miners’ welfare hall, to raise the profile of the project locally.

Many of the outcomes of these learning activities will be published through this website and we look forward to sharing these with you as the programme progresses.

Ystradgynlais had a huge impact on Herman – but he in turn played a part in creating the town’s culture and heritage. What about where you live? Are there any artists who have shaped the culture of your town, village or neighbourhood? Are there any who are shaping it today?

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Alex Pilcher

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