In March 2016  Sunderland Cultural Partnership launched Sunderland 10×10. The Sunderland Cultural Partnership is a collaboration led by the University of Sunderland, Sunderland City Council and the Music, Arts and Culture Trust, with support from Arts Council England.

An aspirational artist and business initiative, Sunderland 10×10 was the first strand of 100 Artists into 100 Businesses – part of North East Culture Partnership’s regional 15 year Case for Culture.

See here for the brochure about the initiative.

It has at its heart two aims: innovation and collaboration. By brokering conversations between businesses and artists we hoped to create opportunities to develop new work for mutual benefit and learning. We’re fortunate in Sunderland to have great dialogue between the cultural and business sectors and were not short of interest from organisations willing to commit not just time, but some financial resource to a project which admittedly had a strong element of ‘see what happens’ attached to it.

Innovation isn’t easy. It needs insights and ideas. Insights through many different lenses, the usual ones from customers and suppliers, but also unusual ones that give you the edge. Then there are ideas. The starting point for those solutions that bring these insights to life as innovations. It’s all about a view of the world and creative opportunity. Insights, creative ideas and clever solutions. And that’s where the artists in Sunderland 10×10 have made their mark.

Following some initial workshops led by the North East Business Innovation Centre and supported by project managers, they have brought fresh eyes and ideas to businesses that might never have thought of having this creative dialogue. The artists have challenged the embedded wisdom…. and encouraged business leaders to embrace visionary change.

Sunderland 10×10 has pioneered a way in which this might happen. The response to our call for artists was overwhelming and demonstrated the breadth of quality practice in the region. The selection process was an eye opening experience for some of the businesses. In many cases, their selection challenged their preconceived notion of the artform they expected to connect with. After a CPD session run by North East Business Innovation Centre and a collaborative workshop hosted by our associate curator Suzy O’Hara, the pairings had one month to develop a proposal. They were invited to pitch to a panel of arts and business experts which assessed the quality and creativity of their collaboration and idea. Two pairings were awarded commission funds to realise the idea. We are pleased to see that some of the pairings have remained in contact and continued to work together via other means.

The idea of artists working with businesses is by no means a new one. But what is new is the idea that within the North East each place can make a shared commitment to facilitate arts and business cooperation in a way that works for our own localities’ unique challenges and opportunities.

See here for the brochure about the initiative.

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