Meet the FRWA Committee

Ever wondered about the team that works behind the scenes to keep the Friends of the RWA running? Here’s an introduction to the current members of the FRWA Committee – plus a look at some of their own artworks…


Jane Boot – Chair
Ann Baber – Events Co-ordinator
Suzanne Ewart – Talks Co-ordinator
Ann Farthing – Talks Co-ordinator
Barbara Henderson – Trips and Visits Co-ordinator<
Anne Jewell – Minutes Secretary
Deborah Mann – Treasurer
Chrisie Nimenko – Fundraising Co-ordinator
Andrew Nixon – Media
Philippa Shelton – Vice-Chair, Membership and Fundraising
Laurel Smart – Media


Jane Boot – Chair

I trained and worked as a theatre and television production manager for fifteen years. After a break to bring up my three children, I decided to attend The London College of Fashion to do a BTEC HNC in Creative Embroidery which then led me on to painting and collage.

I moved to Bristol 9 years ago and walked into the RWA to take in an exhibition. I was so taken aback by the wonderful building and art gallery that I immediately joined the Friends. I offered to help with the Friends Exhibition in 2014 and in the coffee break was asked if I would like to join the committee! I became Chair in 2017.

I live in Redland and am lucky enough to have a large studio which can occasionally be converted into a gallery. I usually work in watercolour, collage or acrylics.

My work can be seen at North Bristol Artists.

Jane Boot – ‘The Old Colliery’ (collage)



Ann Baber – Events Co-ordinator

I have been involved with the RWA since 2009. I was drafted in to help out with the Trips and Visits by the much loved, but now deceased, Tom Western-Butt.

It was love at first sight even though for a couple of years the RWA experienced many difficulties. The coming of Alison Bevan changed all that and we as Friends and Volunteers have seen this wonderful Gallery go from strength to strength, thanks to her.  The RWA is a veritable jewel in Bristol’s crown.

As to my own art, here is a painting I did in oils as a result of a day out at Stourbridge last Autumn. The colours were stunning and just had to be painted.

Ann Baber – ‘Stourbridge’



Suzanne Ewart – Talks Co-ordinator

I was delighted to join the FRWAs Lecture Team three years ago. It is always a joy to meet the Academician, often in their studios, to discuss their upcoming talks. It is my pleasure to greet the Friends and visitors to the talks on selected Saturday mornings.

Before retirement I worked as an Illustrator, teacher and painter and now enjoy my time painting.

Suzanne Ewart – ‘Asni Souk’. Watercolour and ink



Ann Farthing – Talks Co-ordinator

I have been involved in the Friends’ committee for over three years  and it is my job to organise the ‘Meet the Artist’ events that take place on Saturday mornings. The photograph shows me at Yvonne Crossley’s studio last year.  It is one of the privileges of the role that I am able to visit the Academicians in their working spaces and hear about their work.

In my own practice I have been analysing the work of two of my ‘Desert Island’ artists, Piero della Francesca and David Hockney. Centuries apart but united, to my mind, in an ability to create a sense of calm. This painting is a homage to David Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy. Other work can be seen on Instagram.

Ann Farthing – homage to David Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy



Barbara Henderson – Trips and Visits Co-ordinator

I have been involved in planning trips and visits for the FRWA for the past 10 years. Places we visit can include a gallery, a house or garden, museum, church or building of architectural or historical interest.

We organise 3 types of visits:

  • a day visits to a town or city e.g. Oxford,  Winchester, where people can have a “free day” armed with a street map and a set of notes from us about the various cultural attractions.
  • perhaps the most common, is a day trip where we will visit 2 or 3 places in close proximity.
  • a longer visit, where we stay in a hotel for 2-4 nights and explore the cultural features in the wider area.

I also organise walks accessible from the RWA where we look at artistic and architectural features around us – recent “blue plaques” walks have proved to be of great interest.

I love other people’s art. I am not a practitioner, more an exhibitionaholic.  I dabble in collage and have been inspired by the works of the German artist Hannah Hoch, but am no expert. I enjoy making memory books for people too, using a fair amount of collage.

In Lockdown we have enjoyed recreating works of art and I attach our take on Ophelia…



Anne Jewell – Minutes Secretary

As Minutes Secretary I have been  introduced to a friendly and dedicated  bunch of people.  Hope you enjoy ‘meeting’ them – and also consider joining the FRWA!

Thanks to the Bristol School of Art, as an adult,  I studied many aspects of art – such as life classes, oil painting, enamelling, printing.  Having a sketchbook has meant most to me, as each sketch is full of memories.  This drawing is an extract from my sketchbook.  It doesn’t represent anything in particular, just shows my enjoyment of colour and the different ways of mark making.

Anne Jewell – detail from sketchbook



Deborah Mann – Treasurer

As well as being extremely short-sighted I am a professional Horticulturist, Jack of many trades, and a frustrated artist. I draw, paint and sculpt in a range of mediums, from figurative into blissful abstraction.  I am greedy.

This picture reminds me of the joy and intense work of the life drawing room, and of the special trust that can be built up over time between the students, teacher and model. A painting from the RWA collection –‘The Life Class’ by Miss M. Kerry – provided the main source of inspiration for a life drawing session at the RWA Drawing School. It became our subject for the day, together with our fellow students, our easels and life model. My drawing that day was utterly, utterly atrocious – a bad cartoon of the room and its contents.  With five minutes to go, I realised there was something missing in the middle of my drawing: I hadn’t drawn Miss Kerry’s painting which was hanging on the wall right in front of me. I dashed it off – just 15cm x 20cm. The result caught the attention of a fellow student whose work I greatly admired (and who turned out to be a professional portrait artist of some renown).  I was well chuffed!


Deborah Mann – drawing of ‘The Life Class’ by Miss M Kerry



Chrisie Nimenko – Fundraising Co-ordinator

I graduated with a First Class Honour’s Degree in Fine Art from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and moved to the UK in 1990. I was based in London for many years working as an Art Director for many global brands. Since moving to rural Gloucestershire in 2006 I have worked from my studio at home, creating mixed media collages using 24 carat gold. I also paint with a focus on abstraction of the landscape inspired by the view from my studio which looks across the River Severn to the Forest of Dean. I also have a passion for teaching the next generation of artists and lead creative courses with an International college in Bristol.  I have been an active member of the Friends since 2018 and have been involved in fundraising and sponsorship.

My own piece is from a new series of work inspired by the Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy and it’s called “Darkness from Within.”


Chrisie Nimenko – “Darkness from Within” – Mixed media Collage 2020 (42.0cm x 59.4cm)



Andrew Nixon – Media

I joined the FRWA committee in 2018 after answering a call for Friends to help out with publicity and social media, and now I edit The Floating Circle blog, the quarterly printed newsletter, the monthly email newsletter and the Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I was already a Friend and keen supporter of the RWA – I love the way the exhibitions mix contemporary and older works. I really enjoy the Autumn Open and the Secret Postcard Auction and have bought a number of works from both, so it’s great to be more closely involved and to meet so many interesting and talented artists associated with the organisation.

In terms of my own art, I’m more of an appreciator and collector than a maker, though my daughters are both promising in that regard so I might be able to live an artist’s life vicariously through them. My main creative outlet is writing – I’ve written and run various online culture publications and am a regular contributor to the literary magazine Slightly Foxed.



Philippa Shelton – Vice-Chair, Membership and Fundraising

I joined the FRWA Committee in 2018 to work on fundraising and increasing the Friends’ membership. I’m now Vice-Chair.

One of the things I like most about art is that whilst it is a solo act of creation, it’s enjoyment is often shared through visiting exhibitions with friends and family, meeting fellow art lovers and learning from each other about all different forms of art. I love the annual Bristol Art Trails, and now more than ever I look forward to be able to visit different people’s houses and enjoy art together.



Laurel Smart – Media

I have spent my adult life identifying as a teacher who paints a bit. Now, following a huge reduction in teaching and with the chance to focus on my own practice I finally know I am an artist who teaches a bit. I think I always was!

I have always been aware of the abstract artist lurking within me, waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. For the last three years I have been painting large scale abstract work and feel as if I have come home.

I was a casual visitor to the RWA for many years, never quite feeling it was my place. In recent years it has changed, drawn me in and now I am delighted to be involved with the Friends Committee. My high point was the Albert Irvin exhibition, and more particularly Stewart Geddes curatorial talk. Stewart is so knowledgeable, Irving’s practice reflected so many of the issues I struggle with daily. It was a seminal moment.

Laurel Smart – Improvisations, Acrylic on Canvas 2’x3′. detail




Concept and interviews by Laurel Smart.
Photo top: Suzanne Ewart, Ann Baber and Jane Boot at the ‘Small is Beautiful’ private view in 2019. Photo credit: Angus Gregson


The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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