A Totem for Hull: a new sculpture proudly representing disability, realised via a partnership between Artlink Hull and the University of Hull
Background to the partners
Artlink Hull enables the creation and exploration of art with, in, and about communities. In particular, we work with individuals and communities experiencing disadvantage to increase the diversity of voices in the arts. We do this through art commissions, projects, exhibitions, events, learning programmes, and forums, working with a range of communities. Since our establishment in 1982, Artlink Hull has been continually involved in the development of community, participatory and socially-engaged art practices, and remains a key organisation in the Humber region within these fields.
Culture campus, University of Hull
The Culture Campus Office facilitates the creative exchange between the University of Hull and its surroundings. Connecting academics, students, research and venues with artists, communities, practitioners and established arts organisations, Culture Campus enables the creation of new innovative work that has research and academic expertise at its heart. Culture Campus supports the student experience by offering active participation in the development and curation of the programme, working with faculties to embed creative projects in the curriculum and through our cultural partnerships provide opportunities to explore creative careers. We like to welcome, speak to and learn from our audiences and our aim is to integrate the University’s cultural programme into the fabric of the city and make the campus a place of cultural exchange, creation and opportunity.
How we came together for A Totem for Hull
One of the objectives of the University’s cultural strategy is to make the campus a cultural destination in the city and to work in partnership with cultural organisations in co-curating our arts programme. Considering disability and access is important to both organisations and through meetings at our local cultural consortium, Cultural Collisions Hull, the conversation developed around working on this project together. The synergies of skills, expertise and connections between the University of Hull and Artlink were perfect for this project. A Totem for Hull enabled us to communicate our values to a wider audience and by working together this voice was magnified.
What the project was and how we delivered it
A Totem for Hull was the second project artist Jason Wilsher-Mills delivered in Hull with Artlink. Having undertaken the Square Peg disabled artist residency during Hull’s year as UK City of Culture to much acclaim and interest, Jason wanted to return to the city to reconnect with some of the people he had collaborated with and undertake a project which would result in a substantial permanent artwork. One which would reflect the often unheard perspective within culture of disabled people.
Such an undertaking Jason and Artlink knew would require a wider network of partners, and we immediately thought of the University. With its Culture Campus programme and having already undertaken ambitious sculptural projects on site, we felt this would be an ideal collaboration. Artlink and Jason worked together with the University to secure additional funding from Arts Council England and Hull City Council and started the project formally in January 2019. Artlink focused on supporting Jason during his significant engagement with disabled groups in the city, which saw him working with around 200 people in total to contribute to final his design for the sculpture. We also supported him to realise the final artwork. At the same time, the University worked closely with Jason on placing and securing the artwork on campus, engaging staff and students in the project and launching the final piece at a large scale event. All partners worked closely on communications relating to the project, which attracted a lot of interest, being featured on BBC Look North and being part of Yorkshire Sculpture International 2019. A close, direct and open collaborative working relationship between the University and Artlink based around supporting the artist, with each party leading on their specialisms and working together for greater impact, was key to success of the project.
Benefits for Artlink
- The University campus an ideal location for installing permanent, radical artworks in an open setting
- Through working with the University, we were able to create a stronger team for the overall project and leverage greater funding
- The Culture Campus office acted as a great centre point for Artlink to be able to connect to departments across the University
- Collaboration enabled to us to better connect with University staff and students interested in the project
- Working with the University adds prestige and helps platform this important artwork
- Through working together we were better able to promote and generate interest in the project from different audiences
Benefits for the University of Hull
- The University of Hull increased its cultural presence in the city
- Exhibiting this work supported our ambition to show radical artworks with socio-political contexts
- The artwork attracted a new cohort of local people to view art on campus
- The project encouraged dialogue between the public, academics and students around issues represented through the artwork
- Working with Artlink increased our knowledge of the sector they are working in and we could share and access new audiences
- The final artwork enables us to continue our ambition to become another cultural destination and cultural collaborator in and for the city
Benefits for Hull
- The conversation around disability is increased in the city in a project conceived and delivered by a disabled artist
- More radical artworks are sited within the city, part of a wider cultural offer for the city from University and Artlink
- Hull being seen as a centre for visual arts is increased
- Through different organisations collaborating, it is easier to realise significant arts projects in the city which involve local people, in the post UK City of Culture context
- Growing capacity in the local cultural sector through partnership working
- Creating new innovative pieces of work that could not be done by individual organisations alone
- Through sharing good practice, staff in both organisations can develop new skills and knowledge of producing and delivering art in different contexts
Kenn Taylor, Creative Director, Artlink Hull / Marianne Lewsley-Stier, Head of Culture Campus, University of Hull
For more information see the project webpage here: https://www.artlinkhull.co.uk/event/a-totem-for-hull/ and contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or M.LewsleyStier@hull.ac.uk
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