Image credit: Ronan Hughes (Regional Director, GRAHAM), Rob Valentine (Director for Birmingham at Bruntwood Works), Cheryl Jones (Director, Grand Union), Antia Bhalla (Board Director for Creative Industries and Culture at GBSLEP) inside of Grade II listed building Junction Works. Photograph by David Rowan.

Image credit: Ronan Hughes (Regional Director, GRAHAM), Rob Valentine (Director for Birmingham at Bruntwood Works), Cheryl Jones (Director, Grand Union), Antia Bhalla (Board Director for Creative Industries and Culture at GBSLEP) inside of Grade II listed building Junction Works. Photograph by David Rowan.

Birmingham art gallery and artist studios complex Grand Union is beginning the transformation of Junction Works, a Grade II listed building on Fazeley Street, Digbeth.

The first phase of works, starting this summer, will renovate the front part of the building, creating four new office suites for regional creative sector businesses by the beginning of 2022. Homes England has been working closely with Grand Union to pump prime this project. It will eventually see the charity’s gallery and artist studios relocate from their current home in Minerva Works.

Junction Works, a beautiful mid-nineteenth century building, is located in the Warwick Bar conservation area, at the junction of the Grand Union and Digbeth Branch canals. It has been empty for several years after suffering fire damage in 2004.

Grand Union’s fundraising campaign, with a target of £2.6m to undertake Phase Two works, will see the opening of a brand-new public gallery space, cafe, events space and artists’ studios in this stunning heritage building.

Grand Union opened in its current site in 2010, providing much needed high quality, affordable workspace for artists and a public gallery that has built an international reputation for presenting cutting edge contemporary art and supporting artists at pivotal points in their careers. Last year it hosted Jamie Crewe’s exhibition Love & Solidarity, for which the artist received a Turner Prize Bursary in 2020. Grand Union’s Programme Director Kim McAleese has been part of the panel of judges for the 2021 iteration of The Turner Prize launching at The Herbert Gallery, Coventry later this year. Grand Union also has an innovative approach to working collaboratively with communities in the city. They have recently launched a mini documentary about The Growing Project, a community-led growing scheme bringing artists and people who are vulnerably housed to transform unloved spaces into active shared gardens.

Grand Union’s Director, Cheryl Jones said:
This is such an exciting development for our capital project, which will transform our organisation and the opportunities we can offer to people to experience, connect with and create visual art. Collaboration is key to our work at Grand Union and so we are delighted to be working with GBSLEP and so many brilliant businesses in the city’s property sector on this project. Their generous investment and support mean we can begin to create a sustainable organisation that is able to provide inclusive cultural activity long into the future. In addition we are proud to be bringing an historically significant and beautiful building like Junction Works back to life.”

Find out more about the capital project here.


Birmingham art gallery and artist studios complex Grand Union is beginning the transformation of Junction Works, a Grade II listed building on Fazeley Street, Digbeth.

Image: Guerrilla Girls, 2017. Courtesy of the artists.

Image: Guerrilla Girls, 2017. Courtesy of the artists.


Transforming iconic and unexpected public spaces within London since 2016, for its 5th edition Art Night will take place in locations across the UK, including the West Midlands over June and July. 

Art Night have curated a series of billboards across the country by Guerrilla Girls as part of their new commission titled The Male Graze – their largest UK public project in the UK to date and which will explore bad male behaviour through the lens of the art world.

The work will manifest as a series of billboards in towns and cities including: Eastbourne, Dundee, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Warwick, Swansea, London and more. The billboards will be on display in partnership with Compton Verney, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Glasgow Women’s Library, g39, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Grand Union, The Tetley and Towner Eastbourne. Art Night will also present this commission in two London sites in Shoreditch and London Bridge.

You will be able to see the Birmingham billboard beside The Anchor Pub in Digbeth and the Warwickshire billboard at Compton Verney. The billboards will be on display from 18 June to 18 July. 

Artist Isabel Lewis has also developed a new Art Night commission What can we learn about love from lichen? in the Scottish Isle of Skye. A co-commission between Art Night and ATLAS Arts, Lewis is working with collaborators in Skye to choreograph a series of guided walks brought together in a final ‘hosted occasion’, tuning the ears, eyes and the body to more sensuous forms of knowing and being together. In partnership with Compton Verney, Lewis will draw on these choreographic scores to stage a new sound work within their 120 acres of Parkland. This will include several locations across the Grounds and a ‘songbook’ will be available to access in the Women’s Library. From 18 June, accessed by booking in advance via the Compton Verney website here.

Find out more about Art Night here.

Transforming iconic and unexpected public spaces within London since 2016, for its 5th edition Art Night will take place in locations across the UK, including the West Midlands.

Luke Routledge Relief Paintings - Rainbow Bird. Available via Eastside Projects.

Now, more than ever, artists and cultural organisations need our support. We’ve started to compile a list of organisations with great shops, as well as events coming up over the next few weeks selling artists and makers works.

If you are a cultural organisation, artist or maker selling work as part of an event online or offline who would like to be added to the list, please let us know.

[Updated 8 December 2020.]


On Friday 4 December Modern Clay will hold a Winter Studio sale on Instagram.

Great Malvern Christmas Arts Market takes place on Saturday 5 December from 10am-5pm in the grounds of Great Malvern Priory.

Over the weekends of 5-6 and 12-13 December, Fargo Village hold their Christmas Makers Market online with over 40 makers and designers selling their wares.

MAC Birmingham’s Winter Arts Market continues until Sunday 6 December.

Worcester Arts Market takes place over the weekend of 12-13 December on the High Street and Cathedral Square.

The Old Print Works in Balsall Heath, Birmingham hold their Christmas Market at the venue from 12-13 December from 11am-4pm.

Grand Union are offering 50% off all their Editions until Thursday 17 December.

Feminists Work for Change have launched an online shop ‘Empower Bab‘ with limited edition art works by Birmingham-based artists. All proceeds go to Baobab, West Midlands refugee and migrant grassroots women’s advocacy project.

Stryx’s shop, launched in November sells original art works and editions. Artists include: Ewan Johnston, Lexi Strauss, Georgiou & Tolley and Paul Newman.


Luke Routledge Relief Paintings – Rainbow Bird. Available via Eastside Projects.

Eastside Project’s Winter Art Fair – With work by over 30 artists from their associate membership programme as well as specially priced Eastside Projects editions. Items include limited edition artworks, artist t-shirts, tarot readings, textiles, jewellery and more.

Studio Outlet sells unique works, test pieces, one-offs, experiments, models, maquettes and more; made by artists in the process of developing new work and making exhibitions. Artists include Joanne Masding, Ruth Claxton, Sarah Taylor Silverwood and Andrew Gillespie.

Unit Twelve Gallery in Staffordshire are open Thursday-Saturday, 10am-4pm selling beautiful handmade crafts.

Public House stock artists’ books, zines and pamphlets.

Amanda Randall Piper Window Brooch available in the Coventry Artspace shop.

Coventry Artspace have recently opened an online shop supporting local artists.

Buy prints, books, jewellery and more from the RBSA shop.

Centrala‘s shop offer a great selection of books in both English and Polish as well as artwork, crafts, food and drink.

Ikon Gallery’s shop sells books, prints and posters, tees and totes, jewellery and more.

Compton Verney sell Gift memberships and Access all Areas passes.

Craftspace offer pay-as-you-feel family activity packs as well as beautiful jewellery created by Shenalu, a collective of refugee women who specialise in craft.

Multistory‘s shop stock a range of project related publications, DVDs and even tea towels.

Airspace Gallery‘s shop offers a range of publications and editions.

Reusable face masks from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery‘s shop sells all kinds of wares, including face masks featuring works from their Collection.

The Sidney Nolan Trust sell a selection of publications, cards and membership offers.

#ArtistSupportPledge – Support artists across the globe on Instagram.



Now, more than ever, artists and cultural organisations need our support. We’ve started to compile a list of organisations with great shops, as well as events coming up over the next few weeks selling artists and makers works.

Turner Prize exhibition moves to Herbert Art Gallery and Museum as part of the year-long UK City of Culture 2021 festival. Kim McAleese, Grand Union Programme Director and member of New Art West Midlands Advisory Group will be on the Turner Prize Jury – via The Arts Newspaper.

Credit: Installation view, Love & Solidarity, Jamie Crewe, Grand Union Gallery, Birmingham, 2020 Photographer: Patrick Dandy.

Credit: Installation view, Love & Solidarity, Jamie Crewe, Grand Union Gallery, Birmingham, 2020
Photographer: Patrick Dandy.

Grand Union is celebrating artist Jamie Crewe’s selection for a Turner Bursary, having been nominated for their sister exhibitions: Love & Solidarity and Solidarity & Love at Grand Union, Birmingham, and Humber Street Gallery, Hull. Earlier in the year Tate announced that it would award one-off bursaries of £10,000 to 10 artists in place of this year’s Turner Prize, as a way to support a large selection of artists through this precarious and uncertain time.

Showing work simultaneously across two venues, Jamie Crewe’s body of work comprises videos, sculptures, drawing and writing to explore ideas of identity, power, desire, community and history. The work takes inspiration from Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness, and its lasting impressions on generations of LGBTQIA+ people. The exhibitions consider places, cultures, histories, communities, and individuals that are tied to each other, whether they like it or not. Tate remarked that the jury for the Turner Bursary “particularly praised Crewe’s dynamic and poetic retellings of mythology and literature while exploring contemporary notions of gender.”

This is the first collaboration of its kind between Grand Union and Humber Street Gallery, Hull’s dedicated contemporary visual art space. Bluntly split, this body of work survives in partial form, spread across two cities, two venues, and two exhibitions. This is in accordance with its themes; together, and apart, Love & Solidarity and Solidarity & Love test the possibility of living with a wound.

Love & Solidarity opened at Grand Union earlier this year, but the exhibition and gallery had to close due to the pandemic. Grand Union is planning to re-open the exhibition by appointment to provide an opportunity for audiences to see the work, adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

Cheryl Jones, Director at Grand Union, said:

“We are so pleased for Jamie receiving this well-deserved accolade for such a thoughtful and inspiring exhibition, which now feels more relevant than ever. This, coupled with news that The British Art Show 9 will be opening in Wolverhampton next March, marks an exciting opportunity for the West Midlands. It is an important recognition of the incredible visual arts work that happens across this region.”

This news coincides with Grand Union celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020. The milestone also comes as Grand Union has recently become a charity and is spearheading a £3.25m project to bring a Grade II listed building on Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, back into use. Working with Homes England, they will transform the derelict Junction Works building (former Birmingham Canal Offices) into a new contemporary art gallery and artist studios.

The recipients of the Turner Bursary 2020 are Arika; Liz Johnson Artur; Oreet Ashery; Shawanda Corbeet; Jamie Crewe; Sean Edwards; Sidsel Meineche Hansen; Ima-Abasi Okon; Imran Perretta; Alberta Whittle. 

Further details about the Birmingham exhibition and programme can be found at

Details of the Hull exhibition and programme can be found at and  


Grand Union is celebrating artist Jamie Crewe’s selection for a Turner Bursary, having been nominated for their sister exhibitions: ‘Love & Solidarity’ and ‘Solidarity & Love’ at Grand Union, Birmingham, and Humber Street Gallery, Hull. Earlier in the year Tate announced that it would award one-off bursaries of £10,000 to 10 artists in place of this year’s Turner Prize, as a way to support a large selection of artists through this precarious and uncertain time.

Love & Solidarity: Jamie Crewe, Grand Union 2020.. Image by Patrick Dandy

The term ‘community’ conjures images of disparate individuals joined by shared interests, experiences, cultures, or religion. But the term also groups unquestioningly, disregarding an acknowledgement that frictions can – and do – exist. Jamie Crewe’s ‘Love & Solidarity’ at Grand Union, Birmingham, offers a conflictual understanding of kinship, and parameters for queer love and disdain. Review by Ryan Kearney – via this is tomorrow

Hymns #18, Cornerblock, June 2019. Photography Jody Hartley

Artist Joyce Treasure speaks to us about her recent exhibition and residency at Bruntwood’s Cornerblock building in Birmingham in partnership with Grand Union. Now roughly half way through her residency period, Joyce explains more about the images, influences, subjects and processes which are critical to her work.


Hymns #18, Cornerblock, June 2019. Photography Jody Hartley


Your recent exhibition at Bruntwood featured a number of new works in drawing and sculpture circling race, gender, religion and politics. How was the exhibition’s premise conceived and how did you select which works to show?


The preparation for ‘Hymns’ began with small graphite portrait drawings of civil rights activists in October 2018 for an open studio event at the Custard Factory. The images were drawn on to the pages taken from a 1920s common prayer book that I had picked up from a charity shop. ‘Hymns’ was partly chosen as a collection title as a tribute – a song of praise – to scholars I admire, and to highlight each portrait’s ‘ideological critique’ and its resistance of the accepted dominant ideologies of that time. It’s a multidisciplinary body of work with each piece numbered ‘Hymns #1 – #22’. The portraits are presented on a small scale to emphasise the hidden histories and to highlight the lack of Black agency throughout dominant narratives. I think my reasoning to draw civil rights activists is leftover from my school days, where there was zero education on the radical movements of that time. My own progressive education was sought outside of school and independently, where I used to attend communist meetings. I was a member of the young communist league (YCL), and I would go off to meetings – with a couple who were members of the West Midlands communist party – to listen to talks around Marxism, and civil rights. At the time, it all went way over my head, really. There was a lot of racism floating around during the ’70s, so it was a place to go where topics about race could be discussed. I was around about 13/14 years old and the experience of ‘belonging’ related to feelings rather than anything academic or concrete; a place to feel okay. I chose those particular portraits because they are artists or speakers I admire now. In my imagination, I would go back and write those narratives into the education system: the missing education that I have been unpicking since 2010 when I began creating street art and paintings around Black identity.

One portrait is of a Bodi Tribe woman, whose sexual orientation is androgynous. I have deliberately done this with other paintings too, to demonstrate gender fluidity, as a way to disrupt the heteronormative thought – that belief that heterosexuality is the norm and anything outside of this is deviant. Johnson and Henderson tell us that Queer studies, like Black studies, disrupt dominant and hegemonic discourse by constantly destabilising fixed notions of identity by deconstructing binaries such as heterosexual/homosexual, gay/lesbian and masculine/feminine as well as the concept of heteronormativity in general.


Hymn #20, Cornerblock, June 2019. Photograohy Jody Hartley


The theories, contexts and lived experiences of race are critical to your work. Can you tell me more about how these perspectives are intermeshed in the works?


My black studies degree course has helped further develop a social and political perspective mixed in with my personal experience. The work is autobiographical, so I used a copy of my Dad’s British passport, images of my mom and me on my centre assemblage piece to document that I am a child of the Windrush generation. The distressing Windrush scandal appalled me, and I wished to bring this into the narrative, as a way to record it into an art piece to demonstrate, protest and resist. I wanted to speak about this during my talk, which I did by drawing comparisons between Enoch Powell’s rhetoric and today’s driving narrative that has forged our “hostile environment” policies, and how this has dangerous and harmful effects on people’s lives and well-being. Racism existed within my family dynamics, as well as socially, so a part of me wishes to acknowledge how race has partly affected my childhood adversities. The assemblaged female centre figure needed to be black. She has been needle felted. Felt making is one of the oldest forms of fabric making. A tradition that came before spinning and weaving; a non-woven interlocking of wool fibres that is subject to heat, moisture, agitation or pressure. The base of the felted bust is made of polystyrene. I used one of those white European polystyrene heads that you use for wigs; a kind of Frantz Fanon Black Skin, White Mask piece. I wanted my centrepiece for ‘Hymns’ to embody blackness as a point of strength and to occupy and interrogate the ‘white space’ (Anderson, 2015).

The copy of my dad’s passport was pasted onto a bridge that connected the centrepieces to a pillar holding a speaker; the “home”. In this sense “home” which is seen as a speaker, points towards music. The inside of the speaker acts as a kind of sanctuary, where I have placed myself. In the base of the pillar, I have cut away a ledge. Inside a black ceramic bird is broken into three pieces. It broke into three parts by accident. I was really annoyed at the time – I’d knocked it off the table, nudged it with my elbow. Wayne Lucas, a friend of mine and whose work I admire, said he preferred it that way. In the end, I owned it. I’m so concerned with getting things right, doing the ‘right’ thing, in the moral sense that is, but the whole work is about accepting the broken pieces that exist, and I really need to be able to be okay with all that. The speaker symbolising music, sits on top above the broken pieces. Indre Viskontas tells us that music helps us to feel more human. It heals and makes us feel better. This relationship between strength, fear and vulnerability is something I am interested in.


Cornerblock, June 2019. Photography Jody Hartley


What feedback has the exhibition received? Has this influenced your thinking or your practice? 


Some of the feedback objected to the use of bible pages, deeming it disrespectful. However, the use of the text acts as a cultural backdrop and as my work, to date, sometimes examines colonialism and empire, the bible, concerning imperialism, acts as a construct for critical thinking. The bible, with regards to the enslavement of Africans, was used to oppress, and also for revolutionary preaching, allowing people like Sam Sharpe to inform and encourage political thought through religious meetings that were the only forms of organised activities for Africans during enslavement. Besides being a collection of sacred text for religious teachings, the bible acts as a form of resistance, a space of commune and a space for connectivity.

From a feminist perspective, I question the patriarchal, hegemonic masculine context within the writings of the bible and how that contains semiotic power. Writing of any kind can be pulled into question as much as any other form. The scriptures have been written many times and has changed according to the era. For example fourth-century mistranslation of the bible attributed to ‘song of songs’ where the speech of Queen Sheba shifts from “I am Black and beautiful” to “I am Black but beautiful”, bringing with it a whole new way of seeing beauty. With its many interpretations and misuses, what is known as ‘reception history’, the study of the Bible text has changed, adopted and been appropriated according to different cultures throughout history. Those changes play a role in advertising, social, political, scientific discourse, and many more. It was also forbidden for enslaved people to practice their own traditional religious beliefs. Not deterred, the bible was, at times, adapted to complement and work alongside indigenous spirituality such as the Yoruba Orishas. Catholicism was absorbed to form Candomblé for Brazil and other Latin American countries and Vodou, Haiti and other Caribbean islands and Latin American countries. In this body of work, I weave elements of these traditions juxtaposed against the scriptures as a reference, pointing back, a bridge between here and there; past, present, future. The westernised idea that God is a white-bearded man has always entertained my imagination, so the central black female figure challenges that notion too. It is the energy within a faith that it is most impressive.

The rest of the feedback was mostly positive, which is always good to receive. One person said they thought the work looked cheap and unfinished. I used materials that I could upcycle and spent as little money as possible, as the project was self-funded. People in Haiti, a place I travelled to in April 2017, use whatever they can get their hands on. They don’t let lack of funds get in the way of expression and creativity. We are totally spoilt in the west with notions relating to opulence. We work with what we have at our disposal. It was important to me to hear from other Black women that find the work relatable to their own identity. This helps me to consider how to move my practice forward, which I am still reflecting on.


Malcolm X, Hymns #9, Cornerblock, June 2019. Photography Jody Hartley


You are roughly half way into your residency at Bruntwood, a partnership with Grand Union. What has this entailed so far and how has this differed from being embedded within a gallery context?


The residency is thanks to Grand Union and Bruntwood who are working in partnership to offer annual artist residencies at Bruntwood’s Cornwall Buildings, where I am currently resident until February 2020. As it stands, we have a studio space for a year in exchange for a commissioned artwork. The residency differs in that there is no defined objective other than the commissioned art piece. In my submission, I specifically wrote the residency to fit around my university black studies placement course to help me further consider ways to implement academia with art and to use ‘Hymns’ as a body of work as a reflective location. Being in conversation with the private sector feels different because you are speaking or working in an environment that is used to a clear understanding and outcomes, where my approach to my art is more experimental. Posing questions within my work, in my case, around Black female identity is unusual in a ‘white space’ such as Bruntwood’s Cornerblock building, where the exhibition happened. Often these spaces want to see work that fits inside the hegemonic discourse. Work that seeks to step beyond the prescribed formula is unusual. The ‘white space’ can also be applied to the gallery space as well. Shows such as Frank Bowling’s retrospective work showing at the Tate importantly helps to break down the constraints set on Black artists to only produce work regarding the Black struggle. But it is important that there remains space for artists whose narrative contains adversity and who wish to do work that includes conflict; otherwise, we risk art being homogenised to suit a singular audience.


What are your plans for the remainder of the residency and for your practice more widely?


Bruntwood has expressed that they would like to take the exhibition to Manchester, so I need to consider this. The residency is written around me producing a commissioned artwork, so I need to think about how I can build on my current methodology of combining cultural heritage onto existing material. I plan to combine research and possibly some fabricated work. However, I need to further develop my skills if I venture into fabrication. Birmingham’s STEAMhouse offers a programme that helps designers, entrepreneurs and artists develop their ideas, so this may be an option.

My daughter bought me the book, Marina Abramovic: Student Body. Gemma Jones, a Birmingham based performance artist, delivered a performative art workshop in April that I attended. The exercises she provided were taken from the book Student Body, which I very much enjoyed doing, so I am looking at performance art as a practice and experimentation. From a subjective location and reflective practice, the work and my experience form a personal social site that aims to connect with different epistemologies. I plan to continue building on my current reflective practice and to identify curators and public gallery spaces to work with who are concerned with social, political themes and well-being.




Artist Joyce Treasure speaks to us about her recent exhibition and residency at Bruntwood’s Cornerblock building in Birmingham in partnership with Grand Union.

Grand Union’s Collaborative Programme Curator, Jo Capper, is featured in The White Pube’s latest text Do galleries ever ask us what we want to see? – via The White Pube

Still Anarchy (2017-ongoing), installation view, Chris Alton. Image courtesy of Patrick Dandy.

Laura O’Leary reviews Three Models for Change which took place at Stryx, Birmingham from 9-16 June 2018.

Three Models for Change, was a group show of artists Chris Alton, Ian Giles and Greta Hauer curated by University of Birmingham students Ryan Kearney, Alice O’Rourke and Ariadne Tzika in association with Grand Union. The exhibition presented three separate works, all made between 2016-18 that engage with how to form communities and ripple the product of proactive conversations into society.

After BUTT (2018) Installation view, Ian Giles. Image courtesy of Patrick Dandy.

In Ian Giles’ After BUTT (2018), mattresses were strewn across the floor creating a comfortable bed to watch his thirty-four minute film, in which a group of stylish readers in their twenties enacted conversations that he conducted with the founders and those involved in the making of BUTT, a gay magazine that featured half lifestyle and half pornography content, published between 2001-2011. Questions included why the magazine  started, by whom, it’s design, and legacy.

The perspective of the group oscillates around the room, shot in a soft light. In the film, a reader comments that BUTT made it okay “to have a small dick and a pot belly.” BUTT displayed body diversity, instead of the mainstream presentation of men in gay magazines that was “clean” and “commercial”, an aesthetic that was familiar to the founders Gert Jonkers and Jop Van Bennekom pre-BUTT. However, as the conversation draws out, we find out  the magazine was not inclusive, and provoked questions regarding the magazine’s treatment of race and gender.

Gay culture is discussed with emotion and humour in this highly organised, scripted conversation. A casual life-like nature to the dialogue is portrayed, due to beer cans sitting next to reader’s trainers, as though I was witnessing a self-reflexive conversation. Whilst sinking deeper into the mattress, re-watching the film, I considered why these artists are brought together in the same room.

Chris Alton’s Still Anarchy (2017-ongoing) is an installation of three embellished leather jackets, embroidered with statements such as “Defend the Sacred”. Copies of his A Quaker Zine #Volume 1 commissioned for this exhibition are displayed, which include snippets of conversations, collages, drawings and small texts made during a workshop in May 2018 at Friend’s House, London, with “a group of former Punks, now Quakers and others.” The zine indicates to resistance, demonstrated in the imagery of police arrests at protests and also, constructions of identity. Such as, “I turn back to the [14-year-old] girl in the denim jacket, the girl who used to be a Mod but now considered herself a Quaker, the girl who admires Edie Sedgwick and gets turned on by Day-Glo running shoes.” The extract is a part of this document which demonstrates the recent exchanges Alton had with the group.

In Alton’s installation of leather jackets, he brings together two seemingly disparate groups; Punks and Quakers, and turns them into a fictional band, imagined and sought by the artist. Typified by a pull-out poster in the zine, with a “MEMBERS WANTED” sign – seek band mates, reminiscent of handmade posters found in the back of music stores. Tabs at the bottom of the poster display the artist’s digits. The (retro) term “digits” used, as the aesthetic of the poster harks back pre-digital times, where these types of messages were not shared online but infiltrated the walls of buildings, where these groups would pass through; forming networks. The leather jackets that hang from chains vacantly await the band, ready to fuse a new narrative.

Installation view, Image courtesy of Patrick Dandy.

In Greta Hauer’s work – the final “Model for Change” – her commissioned film Vigorous Activities (2016-2018) sheds light on the fictional activities taking place on Nishinoshima, a volcanic island ~1000km off the coast of Japan. Nishinoshima was confirmed as an island in 2013 and is expanding overtime, consequently broadening the Japanese economic zone. The work lasts for nine minutes and begins with a large title: VIGOROUS ACTIVITIES in the opening sequence and a documentary style aesthetic follows, in which a character that plays “the presenter” details the redevelopment of Nishinoshima as a tourist hotbed, notorious for its seafood delicacies; a by-product of men in suits tampering with the ecosystems of the island. By reflecting on a fictional future for Nishinoshima; a new self-building island, it presents the site of the exhibition as a space to reflect on the formation of communities, which in themselves could be seen as self-building systems and the possibility of re-defining places by investigating their political and cultural remit.

Three Models for Change offered a gateway into prototypes of queer dialogues, the intersection between Punks/Quakers and into possible futures of un-told, uninhabited places. What draws to the surface, is the unrest of desire for spaces for organic conversations, in a structured, harmonious sense. How by critically addressing the histories and futures of communities, even fictitious, can be a good diving board to enter into how to discuss issues through these networks, to quote from Ian Giles’ work – “how there’s not one way to do anything.”

Laura O’Leary (based Birmingham/Derby) is a freelance writer and Programme Assistant at QUAD, Derby.


Laura O’Leary reviews Three Models for Change which took place at Stryx, Birmingham from 9-16 June 2018, a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Grand Union.

Tom Emery profiles artist Melanie Jackson for Frieze magazine. Jackson’s exhibition, Deeper into the Pyramid, is showing at Grand Union until 21 April.

Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative learning programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. The workshops are held over four weekends annually, exploring different forms of curatorial practice.

The course is aimed at curators at the beginning of their careers, to offer an alternative programme to costly postgraduate study in a slightly less formal environment.

The sessions will be as follows:

25–27 May: Curating in Birmingham led by Birmingham-based curators, organisations and artists

August: Curating in Conversation led by Sophia Yadong Hao

September: Curating in Learning led by Janna Graham

October: Curating in Publics led by Annie Fletcher

We are looking for individuals with a working knowledge of contemporary art and some curatorial experience to take part. The course costs £275, with lunches included, and participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation.

To apply, please download information here.

Application deadline: 8 April

We are delighted to be offering 4 bursary places through Engine for West Midlands curators to attend Curatorial Curriculum. 

Beatfreeks and ASTONish are additionally supporting bursary places.


Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative learning programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. The workshops


Friday 9 March
Grand Union, Birmingham
10.30 – 12.30
Breakfast provided, all welcome.

‘Do we practice from where we are and who we are? How do we incorporate our personal experiences into frameworks that tend to value theoretical practices over personal practices?’ Teresa explores the slippage between different ‘spaces’ – that of a curator, a carer and a curandera (a Latin American healer).

Teresa Cisneros is a Chicana (Mexican American) curator, educator, and arts administrator who has worked with and in visual art spaces. She is part of agency for agency and is a curatorial fellow at The Showroom. Cisneros works between administration andcurating as a form of creative practice through a space of care.

Adelaide Bannerman is a freelance project manager/curator based in London.
Her research interests are focused on highlighting the performative gestures and responses in live and visual performance art – referencing individual and collaborative practices and also choreographed movements in public and private space.

Please could attendees bring along whatever they are currently learning through (book, article, tv show, music, website, etc), and also a personal item.

The Curatorial Research Group is organised by Lucy Lopez (Eastside Projects) and Kim McAleese (Grand Union), and generously supported by New Art West Midlands.

The group brings together art workers from across the West Midlands for reading, discussion and critical feedback. We meet roughly once every six weeks. All activities are free, and range from member presentations, to reading groups, to public sessions with invited speakers.

If you would like to come along, or to host a session, please contact Lucy at


The next Curatorial Research Group session, Personal Slippages: Curating, Curanderismo, Caring: Teresa Cisneros with Adelaide Bannerman, takes place on Friday 9 March.

Job Centre Junior, Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Photograph by Greg Millner

In autumn 2017 we offered artists and curators living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Nine artists from across the region have been selected and will have the opportunity to discuss work and to seek feedback and practical advice on their practice.

Job Centre Junior, Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Photograph by Greg Millner

Artists Amelia Beavis-Harrison, Anna Katarzyna Domejko, Ian Giles, Andrew Gillespie, Kate Green, Kurt Hickson, James Lomax, Mark Murphy and Corinne Perry based have been selected from Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Birmingham. These nine ambitious artists were selected from a pool of strong applications thought sought to develop new connections and new conversations about their practice.

These artists will be visited in the coming months by arts professionals working both inside the region, nationally and internationally: Irene Aristizábal, Nottingham Contemporary; Lana Churchill, Bosse & Baum; Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts; Seán Elder, Grand Union; Ryan Hughes, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art / Office for Art, Design and Technology; Milika Muritu, Cell Project Space.

Applications were shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Zoe Lippett, Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall and Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands.

The successful artists are announced for the most recent phase of our Engine studio visits.

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Grand Union programme director Kim McAleese and associate curator Seán Elder speak to a-n news about their 2017.

To register your attendance for any of our Curatorial Research Group events please email Lucy Lopez


Curatorial Research Group
Monday 23rd October
Grand Union, Birmingham

Group meeting with presentations from Seán Elder and Aly Grimes.

Please come along if you are interested in finding out about the group – this will be an open and informal session!

About the speakers:

Seán Elder is a curator and writer from the Scottish Highlands based in Birmingham. Currently Associate Curator at Grand Union, Elder has worked in proximity with artists such as Gordon Douglas, Tako Taal and Leontios Toumpouris, and organisations including LUX Scotland, The Telfer Gallery and The Hunterian Art Gallery at University of Glasgow, to produce exhibitions, publications and screening programmes. His research seeks to utilise Queer methodologies within exhibition-making as a means of challenging existing power-structures and investigate the roles of language and society in forming identities.

Aly Grimes is an independent curator and co-founder of Stryx – an artist-run project space and studios located in Birmingham, UK. Her curatorial work is concerned with new media art, collaborative methodologies and interdisciplinary modes of practice. Grimes is interested in fostering long-standing connections between artistic practitioners around the globe and is a founding member of September Collective, a pluri-cultural group of creative producers formed under the auspices of the School of Curatorial Studies, Venice. Her previous projects include ‘Symphony of Hunger; Digesting Fluxus in Four Movements’ co-curated with September Collective, and the ongoing project ‘Short Circuit’. She is currently undertaking the CuratorLab course at Konstfack University under the leadership of Joanna Warsza.

Joanna Fursman is a researcher at Birmingham School of Art and teaches MA Art and Education Practices at Birmingham School of Art, BA Art and Education and PGCE Secondary Art and Design at Newman University. Jo’s current practice and research is influenced by previous roles as co-director at Catalyst Arts, Belfast and a teacher of Art and Design for secondary school. Her practice-based PhD explores how a ‘possible’ school might be visibly thought or constructed via work of Pedagogical Art Practice, collaboration, its possibilities and production. Jo will present work from a recently completed research project at a secondary school, where collaboration as a methodology of production and art making through photography practice was employed. The discussion will develop around aspects of emerging collaborative practice alongside school as pedagogical frame.




Feminist Duration Reading Group Event
Thursday 2nd November
Grand Union, Birmingham
6pm Introductions and shared meal: please bring something vegetarian to share
7-9pm Reading Group Event

‘A Feminist Chorus for Feminist Revolt,’ a spoken distillation of texts from the Feminist Duration Reading Group, gathered into a score by Lucy Reynolds, The Showroom, London, as part of ‘Now You Can Go,’ 12 December 2015. Photo: Ehryn Torrell

Feminist Duration Reading Group: Italian Feminisms and the Practice of Entrustment

The Feminist Duration Reading Group was formed in 2015 in London to explore under-known and under-appreciated texts, ideas and struggles from beyond the Anglo-American canon of feminism. The Group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at SPACE studios in Hackney.

In an effort to broaden understandings of feminisms in the plural, and challenge existing definitions of feminism that reflect an Anglo-American and northern European perspective, sessions have focused on intersectional, Chinese, Australian and Arab feminisms, as well as transfeminisms in Serbian and Spanish contexts. A key focus of the group has been Italian feminisms of the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, especially the writings and collective practices of the Milan Women’s Bookshop collective and Rivolta Femminile.


Members of Rivolta Femminile in Jacqueline Vodoz’s new Venice flat. from left: Carla Lonzi, Renata Gessner, Laura Lepetit, Adriana Bottini, Liliana Padovani, Maria Grazia Chinese, Anna Jaquinta, Maria Veglia

For this session in Birmingham members of the group including Angelica Bollettinari, Sabrina Fuller and Roisin O’Sullivan will lead an out-loud reading of texts that emphasise Italian feminist practices based in relations of entrustment (“affidamento”) and reciprocal storytelling. Following the readings the group will lead a listening/reading/writing exercise that puts some of these ideas into practice.

Texts will be available on the day. Advance reading is not required as we will read excerpts together.

All are welcome!

Texts for Collective Reading

Adriana Cavarero, ‘The Reciprocal Communication of Voices,’ in For More Than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression, 2005

Discussion of entrustment and Amalia and Emilia in The Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective, Sexual Difference: A Theory of Social-Symbolic Practice, trans. Patricia Cicogna and Teresa de Lauretis, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987)

Recommended Background Reading

Elisabetta Bertolino Beyond Ontology and Sexual Difference, An Interview with the Italian Feminist Philosopher Adrian Cavarero, 2008

Linda Zerilli, ‘Feminists Make Promises: The Milan Collective’s Sexual Difference and the Project of World-Building,’ in Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom, 93-94, Chicago and London: University of California Press, 2005


Public Art Thinking Symposium
Wednesday 22nd November
Organised by Vanessa Boni and Gavin Wade of Eastside Projects
Curzon Building Lecture Theatre, Birmingham City University

Public Art Thinking

We have 25 tickets available for Curatorial Research Group members. If you would like to come along and have attended our research group before, just email Lucy to reserve a free ticket.

See below for symposium information.

Public Art Thinking

Be a part of our critical discourse around public art and its publics!

Birmingham Big Art Project and Eastside Projects will host a symposium that brings together practitioners, council directors, urban planners and architects to investigate ways in which artists and organisations are developing strategies to rethink their role in the future planning of our cities.

Public art is often complicit in projects of urban re-development. But who is dispossessed? How can we claim ‘difference’ when space is becoming homogenised by mass developers? Could artists be better property developers?

Speakers include: Mel Jordan, Barbara Holub, Rosalie Schweiker, Robert Garnett and Andy Reeve.

Come join/take part/observe/be active in conversations around public art.

A double issue of the Art & the Public Sphere journal titled Public Art Thinking has been dedicated to this concept of Public Art Thinking and on the occasion of this project.


The Curatorial Research Group is led by Lucy Lopez and Eastside Projects, supported by New Art West Midlands, with additional assistance from Grand Union.



The autumn season of Curatorial Research Network events led by Lucy Lopez and Eastside Projects with New Art West Midlands is now live.

Amy Jones reviews Susie Green: Pleasure is a Weapon at Grand Union for this is tomorrow.

Kurt Hickson, Dead Painting #2 (2016), Dead Painting (2014), Black Triangle (2016), and Night Fume (2017). Exhibition realised as the result of the last round of Engine Studio Visits.

We are again offering artists and curators living in the West Midlands region the opportunity to receive a studio visit* from an arts professional. This is an opportunity to discuss your work and to seek valuable feedback and practical advice on either artistic or curatorial practice.

Kurt Hickson, Dead Painting #2 (2016), Dead Painting (2014), Black Triangle (2016), and Night Fume (2017). Exhibition realised as the result of the last round of Engine Studio Visits.

We are delighted to announce that this year’s studio visitors will be:

Irene Aristizábal, Nottingham Contemporary
Irene Aristizábal is Head of Exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary. In 2010, she was the recipient of the H+F Curatorial Grant and worked as Guest Curator at the FRAC Nord Pas de Calais, Dunkirk. Prior to moving to London, she co-directed the not-for-profit space Bétonsalon in Paris. She has curated exhibitions and projects at the Miro Foundation, Barcelona; La Maison Rouge, Paris; the Museum of Health Sciences, Bogota; Form Content, London and LOOP festival, Barcelona.

Lana Bountakidou, Bosse & Baum
Lana Bountakidou is the co-founder and co-director, with Alexandra Warder, of Bosse & Baum, a contemporary art gallery founded in 2013 based in Peckham, London. The gallery promotes new developments in arts and culture, curating site-specific exhibitions, supporting emergent practitioners of art, with a focus on audience development in contemporary visual arts and culture. The gallery has a strong focus on performative art practices, with an active events programme which accompanies exhibitions, bringing current discourses to the attention of new audiences both in the local community and internationally.

Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts
Born in Geneva (Switzerland) of Hungarian and Italian parentage, Anne de Charmant is a French citizen who feels European above all. Having trained as journalist, she was an arts correspondent for various French and Swiss media and press. Her particular interest in the contemporary visual arts led her to specialise in that field and when the opportunity arose she turned her hand to curating. Meadow Arts is a non-venue based organisation that collaborates with partners across the region, in order to bring excellent contemporary art to underserved areas; often using unusual venues to produce exhibitions, new commissions and events. Meadow Arts has been supported by the Arts Council from early on and is now in its third round of NPO funding.

Seán Elder, Grand Union
Seán Elder is a curator, researcher and writer based in Birmingham. He works with artists to produce writing, exhibitions and public programmes. Past projects include a Anthology of American Folk Song: a Scottish Première of new work by Steve Reinke at Glasgow Film Theatre, tracing the [public] garden wall, with artists Gordon Douglas and Tako Taal, which took place at Glasgow’s historic Botanic Gardens, and a new piece of writing, Hockney’s California, as part of Active Model, an exhibition for Glasgow Open House Festival. Previous to his role as Associate Curator, Grand Union, he conducted independent projects in proximity with organisations including LUX Scotland, The Glasgow School of Art and The Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow. He has written and spoken on research of Queer aesthetics both in his current writing residency with Cooper Gallery Dundee, as well as CCA Glasgow as part of their Talk See Photography lecture series.

Ryan Hughes, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art / Office for Art, Design and Technology
Ryan Hughes is director of Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. He has worked extensively in artist-led spaces both nationally and internationally as well as with institutions including museums, universities and local authorities. Additionally, he has made projects in ‘unusual’ locations including churches, mountains, online and in print. He has worked closely with practitioners from various fields including musicians, technologists and writers in addition to many artists and believes that interdisciplinary and collaboration are crucial. He has shown work by Lev Manovich, Radical Software Group, Ryder Ripps, Assemble and Andy Holden whilst also conceiving and delivering professional development programmes for emerging artists including students and recent graduates.

Milika Muritu, Cell Project Space
Milika Muritu is co-founder and Director of exhibitions at Cell Project Space. Recent projects include; ‘Free Traveller’, Yuri Pattison acquired by ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe (2017) ‘Submission/ Critical Mass: Pure Immanence’, Anne De Vries, selected for Berlin Biennial (2016) and ‘Greenhouses’, Aude Pariset, exhibited at ‘ARS 17’, Kiasma, Helsinki (2017). As an RCA Sculpture postgraduate, Muritu continued her Fine Art practice until 2007 exhibiting at 6th Sharjah International Biennial (2004). Appointed by ‘Commissions East’ she produced a public artwork and adjunct publication for ART U NEED (2007). Now working solely as curator she has collaborated in public programmes at Serpentine Gallery, London (2005) Tate Britain (2008), Hayward Gallery (2008), Turner Contemporary (2009) and is visiting lecturer at Camberwell College of Art, Central St Martins School of Art, RCA, and Royal Academy Schools.

If you would like to apply for a studio visit, please send a short application to for the attention of Anneka French.

You should send a maximum of three images of relevant work, your CV and a summary of no more than 300 words outlining who you would like to meet and why, and how you feel it would help to support and develop your practice. Please send as a single PDF document.

Applications will be shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands and Zoe Lippett, Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall.

The deadline for applications is 12noon, Friday 3 November 2017.
*We recognise that not all artists or curators have or require studios. The visits can take place at a mutually convenient date and time and an appropriate venue.


We are again offering artists and curators living in the West Midlands region the opportunity to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Application deadline: 12noon, Friday 3 November.

Grand Union's Studios

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 next visit is to the gallery and purpose-built artist-led studios Grand Union in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Grand Union’s Studios

Grand Union, Birmingham
Wednesday 11 October 2017

The visit will include an introduction to Grand Union’s current exhibition Susie Green: Pleasure is a Weapon by the curatorial team. This will also be a chance to find out more about the history, working model, recent expansion and future plans for Grand Union.

Discussions will be followed by an opportunity to visit the existing and brand new artist studios and to meet some of the practitioners based there. We will also pay a visit to Modern Clay, a studio facility for the production of ceramics run by artist Mark Essen which is based on site, finishing around 4pm.

Please meet at 2pm in Grand Union’s gallery. Refreshments will be provided.

Everyone is welcome. Attendees are expected to cover their own travel costs to and from the venue.

To reserve a free place, please contact Anneka French on

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

Engine is the artist and curator professional development programme led by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall.








Our Away Day visit on 11 October is to the gallery and purpose-built artist-led studios Grand Union in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Excerpts from tracing the [public] garden wall, research project undertaken with Gordon Douglas and Tako Taal

We catch up with Seán Elder, Grand Union‘s new Associate Curator, to find out more about his background, research and future plans.

Excerpts from tracing the [public] garden wall, research project undertaken with Gordon Douglas and Tako Taal

                                                                                     What drew you to the West Midlands and what have your impressions been so far?

I grew up in the North of Scotland in the Highlands and have made my way via Aberdeen and Glasgow to Birmingham. It’s become a joke amongst a few of my friends that I’m slowly making my way further south, and while it wasn’t at all deliberate it’s funny that there has been a linearity to it.

If I’m honest my first introduction to Birmingham through studying art was, as I’m sure it is for many people, Eastside Projects and its folding of curatorial, art-making, and production methodologies. I think also reading on the establishment of art spaces in a large, post-industrial city mirrored my then-home of Glasgow. Where those similarities diverged I guess was in the difficulty Birmingham has had in creating a network of such spaces. And where Glasgow has an abundance of artist-run spaces running successfully on mostly similar models, here in Birmingham there is a smaller network of quite different structures across Eastside Projects, Grand Union, Ikon and others.

My first happening across Grand Union came with their exhibition by Prem Sahib, and the fantastic reception that followed. I was very much drawn to a small, curator-led gallery showing work by an artist who seemed at the time on the tip of reaching the next level of his career. The giant cock ring hanging in the gallery also helped to pique my interest, of course.

Researching Grand Union’s back-catalogue following that and its quiet emphasis on showing work by marginalised artists and an incredibly rich extended programme meant I was always planning a visit at some point – so it feels odd to now be working as part of the curatorial team. Odd but very exciting.

Since moving I’ve been really welcomed by the people working within the city. It’s reminiscent of home in terms of the conviviality, though there seems to be less emphasis on status here as there can be in some circles, yet there’s always the occasional male ego.


The Dead Teach the Living, Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow. Co-curated with Lucie Alexander, Shila Ghaisani, John McDougall, Sofie Fischer-Rasmussen, Vanessa Larsen and Lindsay Myles.
(Pictured: Work by Scott Rogers, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Catherine Street)


You have recently been appointed Associate Curator at Grand Union, what are your hopes for the post? What are you most looking forward to?

I feel very grateful for the opportunity and excited for the years ahead within the capacity of this role. There’s a number of things about Grand Union which I think will benefit me greatly. Firstly, the speed at which a project develops. I’m somewhat of a slow burner when it comes to developing these projects and relationships and I think with social media, Instagram and the perception of speed at which some people work it often becomes a source of doubt.

I’m not really interested in short-form exchanges between artists and curators so this is a real opportunity to invest and nourish those relationships that are so central to developing towards something fully formed. Grand Union’s track record of commissions acting at an important intersection in an artist’s career is a reassurance that this long-form of curatorial dialogue is relevant and necessary.

Alongside this I’ll be working with the rest of the gallery’s amazing curatorial team – Gallery Director Cheryl Jones and Programme Director Kim McAleese. As Cheryl focuses more on the development of Grand Union as an organisation, Kim and I have a number of shared interests that are going to hopefully form an exciting and diverse programme over the next while.

The position also acts as a mentorship programme so I’m hoping to make connections with various established curators and practitioners across the UK to help to develop my own skillset and knowledge. I hadn’t realised just how ‘mid’ the Midlands were, so now I’m here I want to make the most of being so easily connected to the rest of the country.


Introductions, written with Tako Taal for Habits of the Co-Existent, Platform Arts Glasgow, The Newbridge Project Newcastle and Edinburgh College


Grand Union and other organisations located in Minerva Works such as Centrala and Vivid Projects have recently been awarded NPO status for the first time. What should we look forward to at Grand Union in the near future?

It’s been really exciting for Grand Union and Birmingham to have such a number of successes in the NPO funding round. For Grand Union I think it’ll help us to form a more robust action plan for organisation-wide development over the next few years across both the studios and the gallery and to think more about what developments in Digbeth and beyond might mean for our position in the city.

Our next show is the first solo exhibition in the UK by Susie Green, entitled Pleasure is a Weapon. The space is going to become home to drawing, painting and installation, animated by performance and sound throughout its life-cycle. Susie’s work is incredibly visually engaging, bright and enticing, but with a real depth of understanding and sensitivity to it. The extended programme is shaping up to be a really integral part of this – I’m particularly excited for a screening of Mano Destra (1986), a meditation on Lesbian fetishism and bondage.

Next year’s programme kicks off with Melanie Jackson, whose expansive research project is going to be taking over the gallery. Deeper in the Pyramid is going to be examining milk as a substance for probing social and political histories. Milk being something understood as “natural” but at the moment of consumption having gone through a process of homogenisation and modernisation.

This will be followed by a two-person show by artists Tako Taal and Rami George, based in Glasgow and Philadelphia respectively. I’ll be curating the show in dialogue with both the artists as they research their personal and cultural histories as a means of understanding their contemporary identities – whether  racial, queer or gendered. This is at the earliest stages right now but I’m very excited to bring these artists to Birmingham and help the project comes to fruition.


We catch up with Seán Elder, Grand Union’s new Associate Curator, to find out more about his background, research and future plans.

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.

Room7 curators

Room7 is a new curatorial collective that has arisen from the MA in Art History and Curating at the University of Birmingham. Its members come from Staffordshire and the Black Country, as well as Leicester, London, Peterborough, Denmark and Latvia.

FLUX, their first exhibition together, opens on 2 June at Centrala and features work by artists from across the region: Mark Houghton, James Lomax, Anna Parker and Zoe Robertson. The exhibition runs until 10 June. The exhibition has been developed in partnership with the University of Birmingham and Grand Union.

We spoke to Room7 to find out more about their aspirations for the project.



Room7 curators



Can you tell me about the process of developing the exhibition, both logistically and thematically?

An open call was sent out by Grand Union in the summer of 2016, asking for submissions of art works made in any media that was to be exhibited as part of a new collaboration between Grand Union and the University of Birmingham.

We began developing the exhibition by creating a long-list of submissions that we felt would complement and respond each other, in relation to multidisciplinary practices. Alongside this, the themes of body and its relationship to space and tactility manifested as the key themes of the exhibition. Even though the call out was for West Midlands artists we had submissions from most parts of the UK, making the selection process about logistics as well as artistic practice.

We are proud to say that we supported artists in the production of new work for FLUX.

How did you select the artists and what are the relationships between their different practices?

We went on studio visits that helped us to narrow down our selection and find out more about physical and practical aspects of the artworks, as well as meeting artists to develop relationships. We found fascinating the fact that our short listed artists all worked in different media and professions, which would make for an interesting dialogue within the gallery space. For example, this is the first time Intervention Architecture has been a part of an art exhibition.

You are producing a publication for the exhibition. What are your aspirations for this text?

We worked with Rope Press to develop a handout and poster for the exhibition. The handout offers a short introduction to each artist along with an exhibition statement. In producing written material about the artists it has been important to us to merge the artists’ own conceptions with our interpretations as a curatorial collective. This relationship has created opportunities for learning and an exploration of individual practices, and it is our hope that the handout will reflect this process.

We are currently also working with graphic designer Mollie Wade to produce a catalogue; the catalogue is thought of as an ‘echo’ of the whole project, and will be published shortly after the exhibition closes.
It is thought to be an extension of the visual and written interpretation of the exhibition and the work we have been doing with the artists. A big part of our ethos as a collective is to offer opportunities to young artists and professionals. Mollie has recently graduated from the University of Lincoln, and it is therefore a great pleasure for us to work with her and help her develop her portfolio as well.

Tell me more about the symposium you have planned on the final day of the exhibition.

The idea of hosting a symposium came quite naturally to us. Forming our collective we had to think about how we wanted to define our practice and an important part of that was to make the art available on multiple platforms. Thanks to generous funding from the University of Birmingham we were able to realise this idea.

Hosting a symposium has made us able to invite interesting speakers and of course present a platform for our four artists to express their ideas and thoughts on the project, and thereby the symposium will acts as an extension of the dialogue presented in FLUX. We will aim for an informal atmosphere where everyone can participate in discussions and debates about the contemporary art scene in the West

The symposium is hosted in Centrala on the 10 June and will start at 5pm. The programme includes a workshop and talks by Cheryl Jones, Director at Grand Union, and Craig Ashley, Director of New Art West Midlands. Tickets are sold via Eventbrite.

Room7 are:
Aelita Galevska: Liepaja, Latvia
Bethany Williams: Peterborough, UK
Jessica Pollington: London, UK
Katrine Stenum: Aarhus, Denmark
Laura Bishop: Staffordshire, UK
Stephen Kirk: The Black Country, UK
Olivia Myatt: Leicester, UK


Room7 is a new curatorial collective that has arisen from the MA in Art History and Curating at the University of Birmingham. We speak to Room7 to find out more about their aspirations for their first exhibition FLUX.

Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative educational programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. Earlier in the year Engine offered bursaries for the course for West Midlands-based curators.

We are delighted to announce the four artists who were awarded bursaries:

Alisha Kadir – Alisha’s work is about social development, youth and being very human. This sounds like music, looks like softness and lives in the village.

Ella Marshall. Ella is an emerging curator and cultural producer with a focus on socially-engaged and site-responsive practices within contemporary visual arts. Her interests include visual anthropology, spatial politics and interventions into built and natural environments, current trends within feminist art practice, and the intersection of art and activism. Since graduating in 2014 with a BA in History of Art from the University of East Anglia, she has lived in Birmingham and worked as a Curatorial Intern at Craftspace and as an Information Assistant at Ikon. Ella is Exhibitions Programmer and Visual Arts Project Manager at The GAP, a young person-led arts organisation dedicated to alternative education and the creation of community.

Gareth Proskourine-Barnett. Gareth is an artist, researcher and educator. Since graduating with an MA in Communication Design from Central Saint Martins in 2011 he has worked on a range of self-initiated and commissioned projects, taken part in artist residencies and delivered workshops internationally. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries in the UK, Russia, India, Thailand and the USA. Alongside his personal practice Gareth collaborates with other designers and writers on publishing projects under the name Tombstone Press. Gareth is currently working towards a PhD at the Royal Collage of Art in the department of Critical and Historical Studies. His practice-led research looks to cyberspace to provide a territory in which the ruins of Brutalist Architecture can be excavated and (re)imagined to (re)claim and (re)locate the utopian ambition of past gestures. Gareth also teaches Visual Communication and Illustration at Birmingham City University, and has lectured at a number of institutes including Brighton University of the Arts and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Katie Hodson. Katie sees herself as a curator, maker and doer. She is a graduate of Fine Art from the University of Worcester, and has since worked as the director of BLOK – an artist led studio and gallery project in Worcester. Her practice manifests through artist led activity within the spaces of our urban construct, and engages with the fabrication of the built environment.

The Curatorial Curriculum will be held over four weekends over the next year, exploring different forms of curatorial practice. 2017 will see sessions exploring performance, publishing, activism as well as forms of resilience, and will be facilitated by a faculty of professionals including Tom Clark, Övül Durmusoglu, Susan Gibb and Morgan Quaintance.

Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative educational programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. Earlier in the year Engine offered bursaries for the course for West Midlands-based curators. We are delighted to announce the four artists who were awarded bursaries.