Fresh exhibition in the China Hall of the original Spode factory site featuring Eusebio Sanchez ‘Antropomórfico’, 2017 and Patricia Mato-Mora ‘Hydroanthropozoa’, 2017 Photography: Joel Fildes.

The British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) returns to Stoke-on-Trent from 7 September to 13 October 2019, bringing together more than 300 contemporary artists and makers in a programme of exhibitions, installations and events over six cultural venues across the city.

The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with an expanded programme that begins in the BCB hub, the China Hall in the original Spode factory site, extending to AirSpace Gallery, and with special site specific commissions and interventions at Middleport Pottery, The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Spode Works and World of Wedgwood, each a champion of Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic identity and history.

At the centre of the biennial are BCB’s two flagship exhibitions, AWARD and Fresh. AWARD brings together new work created by 10 innovating ceramic artists competing for the prize, which has been increased to £10,000 to mark BCB’s 10th anniversary. Alongside this, Fresh returns with a showcase of work by 20 of the UK’s most talented recent ceramics graduates.

Sam Lucas
‘Strange stranger’ group, ceramics and textiles, 2018. AWARD exhibition at Spode China Hall, original Spode factory site.

Highlights include:

AirSpace Gallery in the cultural quarter of Hanley will present Terms and Conditions: propositions in clay, a performative residency and exhibition of new works by artists Dunhill and O’Brien exploring the physical qualities of clay as a material.

Drawing on Middleport Pottery’s profile as a heritage and manufacturing site, Resonating Spaces brings together a series of interventions based around the mass production of ceramic bell-like forms to build on ideas of individual and collective commemoration and celebration. A multi-disciplinary team of artists, including Helen Felcey, Joe Hartley with Standard Practice with a film-maker and sound artist, are leading in the creation of clay and production installations, experimental sound works, community engaged practice and co-produced artwork with local residents, Burselm Jubilee Project, giving audiences opportunity for spectacle, scale, making and reflection.

Mould store at Spode Works. Spode Works and Spode Museum Trust Heritage Centre.
Photography: Jenny Harper
Externalising the Archive at Spode Works

Spode Works was one of the few ceramic manufacturers in Britain to have operated continuously for over 230 years on the original site. In Externalising the Archive, artist Neil Brownsword brings the former function of the site back into the public realm. Working with other artists and artisans from industry, his large-scale installations will use some of the 64,000 plaster moulds from the Spode site stores with new castings, film, digital projections, sound and performance.

In the 1970s the artist Glenys Barton was Wedgwood artist-in-residence, creating figurative and sculptural pieces that were intended to compliment general factory production with their pure artistry. Using this as a starting point, ceramic artists Duncan Hooson and Stephanie Buttle collaborating with performance and sound artists will present 22 Hands, large-scale clay installations expanding Barton’s vision through the creation of three theatrical sets that will be animated throughout the festival. The title refers to the number of hands that handle a pot during its factory production process.

A free weekend festival bus will run between the different venues, enabling visitors to get round the city to experience the full programme and enjoy the the cultural assets of the city.

The full Biennial programme can be found here.

 

The British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) returns to Stoke-on-Trent from 7 September to 13 October 2019, bringing together more than 300 contemporary artists and makers in a programme of exhibitions, installations and events taking place in six cultural venues across the city.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/nov/14/clay-potteries-uk-city-of-culture-stoke-students

Josh Halliday reports for the Guardian on the benefits of making and a creative education in the context of the British Ceramics Biennial and Stoke-on-Trent’s Capital of Culture bid.

https://splice.gopro.com/v?id=6NEAXg

Iain Cartwright, Executive Director of the British Ceramics Biennial speaks about his work with the city of Stoke-on-Trent and Higher Education. This presentation forms part of The Biennial Effect, a symposium organised for Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art.

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British Ceramics Biennial 2017 in Stoke-on-Trent

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor at Creative Tourist, previews the upcoming British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent.

https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/scene-report-stoke-trent-malleable-city-creative-potential

Selina Oakes profiles the artistic scene in Stoke-on-Trent for a-n.

Image courtesy AirSpace

We are programming a series of Away Day visits both within the region and beyond to explore artist-led activity, to profile the work of artists based outside the capital and to create networking opportunities.

Our third visit is to the gallery and studios at AirSpace Gallery and nearby artist studio complex ACAVA.

Image courtesy AirSpace

Engine Away Day: AirSpace and ACAVA, Stoke-on-Trent
Saturday 14 October 2017
1-6pm

At 1pm we will meet at ACAVA for a tour of the studios and exhibition, and a presentation on the ACAVA studio model. From there, we will go on an artist and historian led walk from Stoke Town up to Hanley City Centre, stopping at points on the way to hear about arts and regeneration in the city.

The walk finishes at AirSpace Gallery, offering the chance to visit their current exhibition, FOUNT, in partnership with the British Ceramics Biennial, and to learn more about AirSpace, its structure and projects over tea and coffee. This is followed by some networking time.

(The British Ceramics Biennial takes place at Spode Factory and would be an ideal way to spend your morning in Stoke-on-Trent, should you choose to arrive early).

Everyone is welcome. Attendees are expected to cover their own travel costs to and from Stoke-on-Trent.

To reserve a free place, please contact Anneka French on info@newartwestmidlands.co.uk

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and must be reserved no later than Tuesday 10 October 2017.

Our third Engine Away Day visit is to the gallery and studios at AirSpace Gallery and nearby artist studio complex ACAVA.

Lucy McLauchlan, Birmingham Bt Pass showing at Centrala Art Gallery 8 July. Image credit Matt Watkins.

New Art West Midlands’ director Craig Ashley reflects on yesterday’s announcement from Arts Council England about investment to the region’s visual arts organisations through their National Portfolio for 2018-22.

Lucy McLauchlan, Birmingham By Pass showing at Centrala until 8 July. Image credit Matt Watkins.

Arts Council England’s National Portfolio for 2018-2022 will include thirteen West Midlands’ Visual Arts organisations, up from the current number of seven. This almost doubling of the visual arts contingent is great news for the region, and the sector is strengthened further through the inclusion of more organisations working under the categories of Museums and Combined Arts where there is increasing work in the widening realm of visual arts, and exploration of the innovative spaces between art forms.

With the exception of Birmingham’s The Drum, which closed last year due to a number of challenges and was consequently not in the running for this next round of funding, the current cohort of West Midlands-based National Portfolio Organisations working across Museums, Visual and Combined Arts remains unchanged and will continue to receive investment.

This is an active and positive endorsement of the great work being done in the region, and Arts Council’s decision provides a degree of certainty in uncertain times. Investment from other sources of income must continue to be a priority over the next four years, and the impact of this stabilising fund will allow the time to further develop and grow the opportunities for a wider and more diverse funding mix.

It is important of course that, within the context of some much needed good news for the arts, there is a balanced view. Where other areas of public funding for culture have been consistently cut in recent years, particularly the investment from our challenged local authorities, the National Portfolio money awarded through Arts Council demonstrates the absolute necessity of public money to secure and strengthen our creative output.

As recognised by the Creative Industries Federation, public money sits at the foundation of our £84b-a-year-and-growing creative industries sector, providing essential support at the start of careers and initiatives that go on to bring great success to Britain. Furthermore, anticipating the gap left by the withdrawal of EU funds beyond 2019 – subject of course to the ongoing Brexit negotiations – how do we shore-up and sustain future public investment in the arts? Arts Council England cannot do it alone, and a wider valuing of the arts in society must be a collective concern that we need to address together, within and beyond the visual arts.

The important and integral partnerships between our National Portfolio Organisations and others, both within and beyond the Creative Industries, will help to strengthen a platform for the visual arts over the coming years, and provide a firmer base to build upon for the future. From artists to arts organisations to educators and business, the benefit of the National Portfolio investment is channelled through the relatively few to the many.

So now is definitely a time to celebrate the achievement of those organisations and their supporters and partners that have strived to creative something crucial, critical and valuable. The National Portfolio status is something to be proud of, and an indicator of the valuable contribution organisations make as instigators, protectors, mediators, collaborators, risk-takers and trailblazers.

The inclusion of more organisations in the National Portfolio reflects the region’s growing confidence and the breadth of the work we do. Distinctively here in the West Midlands, the support for the smaller-scale, diverse, innovative and artist-led outfits bolsters the resilience of the visual arts ecology.

The collective strength of Birmingham’s Eastside organisations demonstrates the importance of working together to mutually support. Joining Eastside Projects in the National Portfolio are Centrala, Grand Union and Vivid Projects, all based in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, alongside Friction Arts at The Edge on Cheapside. This critical mass is a model that New Art West Midlands is keen to support elsewhere in the region, to ensure sustainability alongside critical success.

Our museums continue to get the support they desperately need and deserve, with Birmingham Museums Trust and The New Art Gallery Walsall receiving continued investment in the face of challenges with their respective local authority funding. Encouragingly, Wolverhampton Art Gallery receives an uplift from 2018 and they are joined in the National Portfolio by Culture Coventry (The Herbert Art Gallery) and Compton Verney, both of whom become regularly funded through Arts Council for the first time.

The region’s reputation for distinctive festivals shines through the Portfolio, with BE Festival and Fierce now joined by Flatpack, Shout, Capsule’s Supersonic Festival, and the Stoke on Trent-based British Ceramics Biennial. And in terms of innovation, BOM and Hereford-based Rural Media are supported to continue their leading roles in developing the territory within the scientific and digital realms. Wolverhampton’s Newhampton Arts Centre adds to the region’s complement of multi artform venues, widening the cultural offer in the Black Country.

These decisions demonstrate Art Council’s commitment to diversifying the National Portfolio, in terms of practice and geography as well as the protected characteristics including disability, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Among the existing National Portfolio, the Shropshire-based Disability Arts organisation DASH has received a significant uplift in their regular funding to expand their partnership work to commission disabled artists. DASH’s director Mike Layward commented:

“[This] is not only great news for the organisation as it secures our work across England for the next 4 years, but it’s also great news for the disabled artists we work with. The uplift will allow us to develop a new area of work with disabled children and young people who will be the disabled artists of tomorrow.”

New Art West Midlands’ director Craig Ashley reflects on yesterday’s announcement from Arts Council England about investment to the region’s visual arts organisations through their National Portfolio for 2018-22.