EVERY year, hundreds of Oxfordshire artists and craftspeople open their doors to the public for the country’s biggest open studio event.

Oxfordshire Artweeks gives lovers of all things creative a chance to visit artists and makers in their own homes and workplaces, and snap up original work in scores of pop-up exhibitions.

But while the coronavirus outbreak has put paid to most cultural events, the Artweeks team have vowed to press on with this year’s 38th edition, from May 2-25 - by putting the event online.

Organisers hope that by continuing with the event, they will help lift the spirits of both artists and art-lovers self-isolating at home.

Festival Director Esther Lafferty said: “Given the Government’s advice this week, that it is time for everyone to stop all non-essential contact with others to slow the spread of Covid-19, and because these guidelines are likely to be in place for several months, it is clearly inadvisable to go ahead with physical exhibitions which could put the health of our artists and visitors at risk.

“While we are sorry that this is the case, we have made the decision to become a virtual festival this year.

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“There will be thousands of pictures of the pieces created by painters, potters, silversmiths, textile and glass artists, furniture-makers and more, and visitors will also be able to enjoy video footage of artists at work, to explore ‘walk-through’ exhibitions on-line and delve deeper with through-the keyhole-interviews with a number of artists in different media.

“With hundreds of creatives taking part in a social media celebration too, using the hashtag #oxfordshireartweeks, we hope to brighten up what, for many local people, will be long days in self-isolation or practicing social distancing.”

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A small number of exhibitions currently plan to remain open to visitors, including sculpture at Kingham Lodge which is set in five acres of landscaped west Oxfordshire gardens and which features an impressive pavilion inspired by Spain’s famous Moorish Alhambra Palace, which is surrounded by blooming rhododendrons and azaleas.

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Other venues will also publish any new dates for the autumn in coming weeks, and an Artweeks in Watlington event is planned to go ahead from August 29.

Ms Lafferty said: “From the real to the surreal, there’s fun of the fair and a feast for the eyes in flora, fauna, folklore and fable, so whether you are an art aficionado or interested internet-surfer, be enchanted, inspired and even choose something unique for your own home this May.”

Up to 1,500 artists usually open the doors to their homes and studios for Artweeks events or take part in pop-up exhibitions, welcoming over 100,000 people each year. About £1m of art changes hands.

  • Oxfordshire Artweeks runs from May 2-25. For details email artweeks.org