Five years on - the legacy of Jonathan

Jonathan Cole'Co-founder of Project Art Works
Jonathan Cole'Co-founder of Project Art Works

FIVE years after the death of artist and teacher Jonathan Cole, the impact that he had on the town’s cultural life is still being felt.

Mr Cole was killed in a tragic motorbike accident in Cambodia on January 14, 2007, at the age of 45, but in last week’s Observer were two prominent stories in which he had played a part.

Along with Kate Adams, who was this year made an MBE for services to the arts and disability, he was co-founder of Project Art Works.

He was also instrumental in the renovation of 12 Claremont, next door to the library in the town centre which, it was reported last week, has been sold to the county council which plans to use it to expand the town’s library service.

Ms Adams, together with Mr Cole, developed the concept of Project Art Works, an organisation which aims to bridge the gap between art and social care, working with those who have severe disabilities.

She met Mr Cole in 1992, when they shared a studio for several years, and described him as ‘inspirational’.

“We began discussing how we could enable people to make a true expression of themselves,” she said.

“He had a simple faith in the importance of what we were doing, his energy supported me in pursuing ideas.”

Project Art Works, established in 1997, has gone from strength to strength, and Ms Adams is sure that he would approve of the direction the team have taken things in, in terms of collaborations with mainstream galleries, and outreach workshops.

He had a vision of establishing affordable artists’ studios, and in 2002 together with his wife, artist Caroline Le Breton, bought 12 Claremont and set about the task of restoring the building and making it accessible.

Ms Le Breton has sold 12 Claremont to East Sussex County Council, which plans to refurbish the current library, bring together the adult and children’s library on one site, and expand the services provided.

Mr Cole’s youngest brother Marley, 36, a Hastings-based sound artist, said that his brother was still well remembered by many local people.

“Even now I still bump into people I have never met before, and they say, ‘You’re Jonathan Cole’s brother’.

“He meant a huge amount to a huge amount of people.”

To mark the fifth anniversary of Mr Cole’s death his family will be gathering together, and Project Art Works plans to release an anthology in the spring, which will be dedicated to his memory.

Marley Cole has set up a website to celebrate his life and work which can be found at