'Untitled' (2012) David Bridges, NOA beneficiary

'Untitled' (2012) David Bridges, NOA beneficiary

Awards provide six English museums with 'New Opportunities' to work with artists

By New Expressions

11 May 2014

Six regional museums based in the South West, North and Midlands have been selected to receive a special award that will enable them to collaborate with and commission new work by contemporary visual artists.

The ‘New Opportunities Award’ (NOA) has been developed by the pioneering New Expressions programme in partnership with the Contemporary Visual Arts Network.

NOA aims to create innovative partnerships for organisations in the heritage sector as well as new ways of working for artists. The six successful museums and their partner artists were selected via an open competition. They have each been given a grant of £4,000. As well as being able to realise their projects together they will also be able to take advantage of mentoring advice, support and professional development opportunities provided by the New Expressions team.

“New Expressions pioneers collaboration between artists, museums and heritage staff and audiences to invigorate historic collections, buildings and spaces,” said Programme Manager, Judith Robinson. “We’re delighted that through NOA we can offer increased opportunities to even more museums and contemporary artists all of whom will be working hard to create high quality, participative projects and compelling visitor experiences.”

In the South West the successful organisations are Penryn Town Museum, Cornwall and Bridport Museum, Dorset.

Penryn Museum, with the support of curatorial agency Field Notes, will work with artists, Richard Baines and Matthew Bennington. The historic port of Penryn is one of the oldest towns in Cornwall and has a rich and varied history. Baines and Benington will make new work in response to the Museum’s collection which has strong links with the industry of ancient ports. They were selected as a result of the way they both address the mystery of objects and subjects in their practice - blurring distinctions of new and old whilst telling stories that combine cutting edge output with high quality craftsmanship.

Bridport Museum will work with socially-engaged artist, Nancy J Clemance, whose practice involves text, printing and performative work - usually with an inter-generational focus. The Dorset market-town of Bridport has an 800-year history of rope and net making, with production continuing to the present day. The Museum's rare rope and net-based Sanctuary Collection will be the starting point for Clemance - who will spend six months researching the objects before initiating conversations with the local community and ultimately asking them to help decide which new work she takes forward.

In the Midlands, the collaborations that will become part of the New Expressions  'family' are Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire and Strutt's North Mill, Derbyshire.

Newstead Abbey was founded as a monastic house in the late 12th century and still retains much of its medieval character. It is perhaps best known as the ancestral home of Romantic poet, Lord Byron, and is home to the Byron Collection of objects, letters and manuscripts. Artist, Tristram Aver will undertake collaborative research with Newstead’s curator, Haidee Jackson, exploring the collections, artworks, decorative arts and historic legacy to re-examine the British landscape.

Strutt’s North Mill is situated in Belper, one of England’s first mill towns. Built in 1804, it is one of the oldest surviving examples of an industrialised, iron-framed ‘fire proof’ building and forms part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moving image, drawing, text and installation artist, Tim Shore will create a series of short films that will be projected into the museum’s spaces as well as online. The films will explore the ways in which time was understood in the mills and factories of the early industrial revolution, by both the mill owners and the workers whose time was strictly monitored and controlled.

In the North, the museums that have been selected for NOA are Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Yorkshire and Touchstones Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Housed in what was once the world's largest woollen mill, Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills charts the industrial history of the city of Leeds - from manufacturing textiles and clothing to printing, engineering and locomotives. Artist, David Bridges, who works in a range of disciplines including film, installation, photography and ceramics, will create a series of illuminated porcelain sculptures that reflect upon the people who have inhabited the mill over the centuries.

Touchstones Rochdale is an arts and heritage centre in Rochdale with a gallery, museum, local studies centre and education services plus a changing program of exhibitions and events. For the New Opportunities Award, Manchester-based artist Hannah Leighton-Boyce, whose works are often developed in response to or specific to a site, will be creating series of responses to the off-site collections store of the museum which is on the site of a factory that made woodworking tools and machinery for local trades and craftsmen. The works, which will culminate in an exhibition between the archive and main gallery, aims to explore the nature of the archive and how materials, objects and places bear witness to time passing.

“We received a high number of applications for NOA funding so the six successful applicants have done brilliantly to get this far,” continues Judith. “We’re very grateful to Visual Arts South West who led on the call out and selection process for all their help. We’re really looking forward to welcoming the six museums and their chosen artists to the New Expressions ‘family’ and seeing what happens with everyone’s projects as they progress and come to fruition.”

For more information about NOA and New Expressions, which is a national pathfinder programme funded by Arts Council England, visit www.newexpressions.org