Better Together #5: Capital Projects & Collaborative Initiatives

Wednesday 24 April, 1-2pm
Online, via Zoom
Click here to book

Bi-monthly Better Together sessions take place online and offer an opportunity for change makers in the East Midlands, UK to connect. We particularly encourage attendance from directors, trustees and programme leads and welcome participants to share with the group current challenges that their organisation is facing, helping establish a supportive space for shared learning and development. Sessions last only 1-hour and proritise time for open discussion.

Each session is framed by a different urgent topic that is relevant to both the region and wider sector. For Better Together #5: Capital Projects & Collaborative Initiatives we will be joined be Emer Grant, Artistic Director and CEO of NN Contemporary Art to discuss how integrating spatial design practices within art, architecture, and design presents a compelling avenue for fostering collective models within artist-led institutions, particularly in the context of cultural regeneration initiatives.

Session Overview by Emer Grant: 

By strategically leveraging spatial interventions and cultivating interdisciplinary collaborations, institutions can catalyze transformative impacts on their communities’ cultural landscape and broader socio-economic fabric. NN Contemporary Art (NNCA) secured funding and orchestrated strategic partnerships through a combined £4.7 million business case to SEMLEP & the Towns fund programmes. This initiative, aimed at establishing a new permanent home for NNCA, underscores the pivotal role of spatial strategies in driving place-making, fostering investment, and shaping cultural regeneration agendas. The impending reopening of NNCA’s public art hub in 2024 is poised to generate substantial economic value, with projections indicating an additional £5.6 million in revenue and the creation of 77.55 jobs. This story highlights NNCA’s ambitions to become a leading regional arts institution and underscores the efficacy of artist and community-led practices in navigating and intervening in government-led cultural initiatives.

Central to NNCA’s transformative vision is cultivating a collective ethos wherein artist-led institutions serve as dynamic public art platforms. Through a multifaceted approach encompassing site-specific interventions and collaborations with a diverse network of stakeholders spanning public, private, and charitable sectors, NNCA seeks to harness untapped resources and forge sustainable artistic practices conducive to local reform. By reimagining its role as an Arts Collective/hybrid institution, NNCA envisions a space equipped with versatile facilities (new gallery, civic rooms, community kitchen, 20 artist studios, shop, workshops, etc)  designed in consultation with artists and designers, such as Giles Round and Sean Griffiths. Crucially, NNCA as an end-user/ client, situates itself as an active participant in shaping collective strategies to foster community engagement and empowerment.

Several key points for  exploration and discussion within this framework:

Establishing partnerships and terms: articulating the values / and creating transparency for decision-making.

Transdisciplinary Practices: The convergence of spatial practices with disciplines such as cultural sociology, cultural policy, and behavioural economics offers rich opportunities for fostering innovative approaches to cultural regeneration.

Reshaping Governance Structures: The imperative to drive collaborative strategic directions necessitates reevaluating governance structures within artist-led institutions. By embracing participatory governance models that prioritise inclusivity and transparency, mobilising diverse stakeholders towards common goals.

New Institutional Models: NNCA’s evolution into an Arts Collective/hybrid institution underscores the need for innovative institutional models capable of accommodating the dynamic needs of artist-led practices. Cultivating flexible programming frameworks and nurturing ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, NNCA adaptively responds to emerging challenges and opportunities, ensuring its initiatives’ long-term sustainability within a regional context.


Emer Grant is the current Artistic Director and CEO of NN Contemporary Art, a National Portfolio Organisation in Northampton. She is a Curator, Producer, and Researcher who completed her studies at CCS Bard College (USA) the University of York (UK), and the University of Brighton. Emer was a Fellow for The Recalibrated Institution (Miami) and Curator at Art Center South Florida (now Oolite Arts). Prior she has curated shows and programming for various institutions, including the Hessel Museum (NY), P! Gallery (NY), ISCP (NY), Stroom den Haag (NL) Void Gallery (NI), Pollinaria (IT), Yeah Maybe (MN), PHL (DE) and The Grand Parade Gallery (UK). She was Visiting Tutor at the RCA, Visiting Curator at Bard College MFA, Visiting Curator at the University of Minnesota Studio Arts BFA and Visiting Critic for Florida International University’s Architecture BFA programme. and has written for various publications including, Nero, Electronic Beats, The Editorial, The Miami Rail and Rhizome. She was a fellow selected for the ICI (Independent Curators International) 2013 and has consulted for various organizations on Digital Arts and interdisciplinary strategies for public space, she was also an Associate Curator for Left Gallery (Berlin).

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