Photo: Richard Bryant /
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Firstsite is a visual arts organisation based in Colchester, Essex. Our mission is to make contemporary art relevant to everyone.

Our integrated programme of work includes projects, exhibitions and publications by established and emerging artists, as well as extensive learning opportunities and artists’ support initiatives.

Over the last fifteen years firstsite has gained a strong reputation by presenting ambitious work to new audiences in the East of England and beyond.

Firstsite’s new building was designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. His design was selected by a worldwide architectural competition that attracted more than 100 entries.

The crescent shape was created to wrap around the existing D-shaped garden of East Hill House, leaving intact the established arc of mature trees.

Its low-lying, single-storey design nestles in the landscape, with minimum disruption to Colchester’s historic roofscape.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Exhibition Spaces, shop and MUSA Café Restaurant

Tuesday - Sunday 10am – 5pm

Christmas Eve – open until 2pm

Christmas Day – closed

Boxing Day – closed

Saturday 27 December – open 10am – 5pm

Sunday 28 December – open 10am – 5pm

Monday 29 December – open 10am – 5pm (school holiday opening)

Tuesday 30 December – open 10am – 5pm

New Year’s Eve – open until 2pm

New Year’s Day – closed

Friday 2 January – open 10am – 5pm

Admission charges

Entry is free. Most events are free unless otherwise stated.

firstsite has no permanent collection.

Collection details

Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

Chris Seaber - Assembled Paintings and Drawings

  • 6 September — 29 November 2015 *on now

Studio Shots is a dynamic new strand of programming at Firstsite which showcases the work of Essex-based artists. The project is a testbed opportunity, designed to enable artists to develop their practice through displays of recent or ongoing work which is at an experimental stage. Four artists from the Essex Network of Artists’ Studios have been selected and awarded bursaries, one per two-month slot between May 2015 and January 2016.

'I have never felt the need to be loyal to any particular medium but rather endevour to find the right materials and format for the current body of work through constant testing and re-evaluation. I am interested in the creative journey and the examination and necessary fixing of the depiction of a vision or idea as it occurs. The experience between idea and realisation is, to me, an essential part of the creative process. Things occur along the creative journey and as in any journey the travelling is as important as the sought destination.'
Chris Seaber, April 2013

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Open Exhibition

  • 3 October — 22 November 2015 *on now

This dynamic show highlights the diverse range of interesting work that is produced by artists living and working in the East of England.

As the area’s leading contemporary visual arts gallery our aim is to make contemporary art relevant to everyone and to support both emerging and existing artists. The show is meant to challenge visitors to reflect on why they like or don’t like a particular work.

Works in the exhibition will be available for sale, providing an ideal opportunity for visitors to start their own art collection and provide invaluable support to artists.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


James Dodds - Wood to Water

  • 12 December 2015 — 14 February 2016

James Dodds - Wood to Water sees the return of this popular local artist to the landmark Colchester gallery after an epic voyage. In 2001, firstsite @ the minories held a retrospective exhibition called Shipshape tracking the painter and print-maker's solo course from boat builder to boat portrayer. The intervening fourteen years have been monumental for Firstsite and for James.

James Dodds - Wood to Water features paintings of local boats from the river Colne, and more broadly explores the evolution of small wooden fishing boats all down the East Coast. His linocuts link these beautiful and practical vessels to the people who built and used them. James celebrates the value of our local area, offering an insight into the spiritual and political role small boats and waterside communities have in his heart.

Ian Collins, writer, exhibition curator and champion of East Anglian Art has written the exhibition book. Ian was also the author of James's prize-winning biography Tide Lines in 2011, and curator of Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia at the Sainsbury Centre, in which James featured prominently, in 2013/14.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Phantom poster


  • 30 October 2015 7:30-10:30pm

Young Art Kommunity present... Phantom.

A special late night opening at Firstsite Colchester as part of Museums at Night. An evening where any understanding you had of Firstsite will be completely transformed. An evening which will simultaneously make you feel your senses and take them away! As you are guided through the low-lit space you will experience the echoes of the arts gallery you are familiar with; Firstsite will become nothing more than an apparition. Immersive projections, interactive installations and mind-blowing performance will keep your expectations surprised and your curiosity alive.
And not to mention the amazing open exhibition currently on display, with hundreds of artists from all over the region and beyond showcasing their work.

Featuring special guest visual artist Henry Driver -

Performances from Flow Group and Limitless Dance Crew

Plus DJ’s and a bar through the night.

So why not come along and experience the gallery in a new light?

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 18+
  • Any age
  • 14-15


Lewis Gardens
High Street




01206 577067


+44 (0)1206 577 067

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.