Essex Summer of Art festival begins in Hadleigh
A six-month arts festival involving more than 500 artists across 450 venues in Essex has begun.
The fourth running of the Essex Summer of Art will comprise 22 individual art trails, open studios and events between May and November.
Cafes, shops and businesses will host work by local painters, sculptors, performers and visual artists.
Last year it attracted 179,000 people and brought an estimated £1.2m to the county, Essex County Council said.
Traditional galleries and art studios will also be used.
The festival is overseen by art organisation Firstsite, the county council, local authorities and art trail organisers.
This year's programme was launched at the Hadleigh Old Fire Station, which is involved in the Summer of Art for the first time.
The building was converted and opened last October as studio space for 15 artists, who will display their work over the weekend.
Other events will take place in Westcliff, Halstead, Braintree, Colchester, Brentwood, Gosfield, Leigh-on-Sea, Burnham, Southend, Harlow, Roydon, Billericay, Jaywick, Maldon and Rochford.
The Summer of Art will also form part of the county council's Essex 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
This will culminate with a special Sparks Will Fly event to mark the arrival of the Olympic torch in Chelmsford on 6 July.
Conservative county councillor Stephen Castle said: "It's a great way to celebrate what's great about art in Essex.
"We've got some fantastic cultural and artistic talent here in the county and the Games will give us a great opportunity to showcase some of that."