On Tuesday 27th June Leicester played host to Arts Council England’s senior managers, CEO Darren Henley and new chairman Nicholas Serota, as it announced its investment for 2018-22, during a briefing at Curve Theatre.
ACE’s new National Portfolio will include eleven East Midlands’ visual arts organisations. It retains the organisations, which have formed the backbone of the visual arts infrastructure over the last three years – an acknowledgement of significant work that they have carried out with artists and audiences in that time. The work of these organisations is augmented by those within the area of combined arts, as well as museums, which expands the region’s capacity to drive practice forward and engage all manner of audiences.
There is good news for craft, design and the applied arts, with ongoing investment secured for the National Centre for Craft and Design, Design Factory & Design Nation. Leicester Print Workshop will continue to provide invaluable support to practitioners within its exceptional open access printmaking studio and to make printmaking accessible to the public. Broadway, Phoenix, QUAD and Threshold Studios will continue to innovate within the areas of artist film and video and emerging technologies.
The region will grow as a rich environment for new work with The Collection and Usher Gallery‘s opportunities for artists to engage with its historic collections and heritage, New Art Exchange‘s pioneering culturally diverse work – which has received an uplift – Nottingham Contemporary‘s flagship international programme remaining in the Portfolio and Attenborough Arts Centre (AAC) receiving a transformative uplift. Jeremy Webster, Deputy Director AAC, said of the outcome:
“This is a significant sum of money which will help us make a step change in our provision and outputs. We will be initiating more projects and working more directly with artists. So, more commissioning rather than just ‘receiving’. This will help us establish ourselves with a wider geographical remit and help us to meet our ambitions of being a regional lead, or even maybe a national lead in inclusive arts practice. As we generate more work through this award we will use a small proportion of the grant to help increase our capacity to deliver that work and to market it.”
The Portfolio now also features five additional organisations, which represent a real endorsement for artists and the artist-centred scene. Awards to Backlit and Primary consolidate ACE support for Nottingham, the region’s most prolific centre for visual arts and champion progressive artist-led activity. Northampton’s NN Contemporary Art is recognised for its ambitious programming and unerring support of artists, providing a vital resource and facility in that county. In response to the news Catherine Hemelryk, Artistic Director at NN, enthused: “We are thrilled to have been awarded NPO status. We love working with artists from Venice Biennale award-winners to recent graduates, from Northampton to New Zealand. We are passionate about supporting artists to make new work and developing their practices through CPD programmes and we especially enjoy sharing art with everyone! Gaining NPO status is a real badge of honour for us and we look forward to developing what we do over the coming years! The future is exciting!”
UK Young Artists will help hundreds of young artists, including visual artists, to develop their practice and pursue a creative career through cross art form opportunities and intercultural dialogue. Artcore‘s entry to the group supports visual arts practice as a platform for community engagement on a local, national and international level and enables the sector to respond to the demographic of the region.
Threshold Studios, Frequency Festival, Seeper. Photo: Benjamin KiddEast Midlands’ museums have also been recognised with Derby Museums and Leicester County Council securing funding again in this period and Leicester City Council and Nottingham City Museums and Art Gallery joining as new NPOs. Each will receive four year funding to support their programmes and collections – particularly exciting for the latter institution undergoing redevelopment through an Heritage Lottery Fund award.
These decisions demonstrate a commitment to and an endorsement for regional activity and product by Arts Council. They demonstrate an step towards redressing the geographic imbalance of investment, directing more to the regions away from London. They are an indication of ACE’s commitment to diversifying the Portfolio: in cultural, geographic, access and artform terms. In addition, the awards better ‘paint the picture’ of the region, representing a broader range of organisational models and reflecting the geographic breadth of the region. Collectively these organisations will strengthen and diversify the sector over the next four years with new approaches and practices, which should impact positively on artists and audiences alike.
Leicester-based artist, Lucy Stevens responded: ”As an artist living and working in Leicester this will mean that more venues will have funding to showcase artwork and will be open to collaborating with artists to celebrate the city, showcase its excellence and highlight its unique history and culture. It opens the doors for something new and challenging and gives university graduates a reason to stay in the Midlands.”
There are still challenges to the sector with local authority funding for arts and culture diminishing, the same sector being recently separated from the creative industries in a restructure of ministerial responsibilities at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and an anticipated withdrawal of EU funds post Brexit. New practices, new markets and new audiences are needed. This Portfolio will no doubt rise to the challenge.
CVAN EM is delighted to be hosted by Leicester Print Workshop and is looking forward to working with partners, new and old, as this region’s visual arts ecology expands and to celebrating what is produced and presented here.
Find out more about the organisations:
- Arts NK
- Attenborough Arts Centre
- Derby QUAD
- Derby Museums
- Leicestershire County and Leicester City museums
- Leicester Print Workshop
- National Centre for Craft and Design, Design Factory & Design Nation
- New Art Exchange
- Nottingham City Museums & Art Gallery
- Nottingham Contemporary
- NN Contemporary Art
- The Collection & Usher Gallery
- The Mighty Creatives
- Threshold Studios
- UK Young Artists
Read CVAN’s response to the national investment in visual arts for 2018-22.
Celebration Factory | Filip Markiewicz I’m Richter Now (detail), 2017
Oil and spray paint on canvas
Photo: NN & Joe Brown