Scarborough Museums Trust’s lockdown digital commissions stay at home online

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust’s lockdown-launched series of New Digital Commissions from leading British artists is complete and available online.

The project was introduced by the trust in response to the first lockdown in March as a “dynamic new approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming during the Coronavirus crisis”.

Key to the series was a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality of access and innovative ways to promote this message. A diverse range of artists – Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice’s Fiona MacDonald – created digital artworks for release online over the spring and summer across social-media platforms.

Lucy Carruthers’ Animal Archives. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

Trust chief executive Andrew Clay says: “It’s been so important this year for people to have access to the arts and culture: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Curator Dorcas Taylor says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before. We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Scarborough Museums Trust has provided a range of access tools to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Among them have been visual guides, in the form of “social stories”, by Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm that give audiences downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content. Subtitles and audio descriptions have been used wherever possible.

Kirsty Harris’s Whispers From The Museum. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

The New Digital Commissions all can be found on YouTube at http://bit.ly/SMTrustNDC, other than Jane Poulton and Kirsty Harris’s projects at https://www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/stardust/ and www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/learning/family-resources/ respectively.

Lucy Carruthers’ film, Animal Archives: Rewilding The Museum explores how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Interested in the relationship between inside and outside, all the more pertinent during lockdown, she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place is a multi-layered touring and participatory project that uses community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges around home, identity, and displacement.

Jade Montserrat made a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis for the New Digital Commissions project

It started in 2019 in Brighton and Hull and saw the social experiment, which invites honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Kirsty Harris created Whispers From The Museum, a six-part online and immersive adventure for children and families, inviting them to read George’s logbook, discover amazing museum objects and take part in art and craft activities. 

Wanja Kimani made a film, Butterfly, that follows a walk from a child’s eye view as she spent more time noticing the world around her and sensory experiences became amplified.

A still from Wanja Kimani’s film Butterfly

Jade Montserrat produced a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis that explores the impact of lockdown and chronicles the process of making, and new ways of being, that encourage mutual support and acts of care.

Jane Poulton produced a series of photographs and text called From Stardust To Stardust, focusing on personal objects she owns as she considers whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they may bring. 

Feral Practice’s film, The Unseesables, explores themes of extinction by focusing on three “unseeable” birds: the great bustard, the corncrake and the great auk. Examples of all three can be found in the trust’s taxidermy collection.

A still from Feral Practice’s film The Unseeables

What next?

Some of the New Digital Commissions artists will be participating in What If? at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda from April 24 to August 30 2021.

Next year’s exhibition will explore “the civic responsibility of museums and their collections and how we could introduce wider narratives into our spaces to make our institutions relevant to both the world and our local community”. 

Scarborough museums to commission digital works from artists in lockdown times

Feral Practice: Queenright, Ant-ic Actions, 2018-2021, work in progress

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust is introducing a dynamic approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming with a series of new digital commissions from artists nationwide in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

The trust, in charge of Scarborough Art Gallery, the Rotunda Museum and Woodend, has been working with Flow Associates to develop a new way of working across the organisation.

This will involve using a method called the “Story of Change”; in a nutshell “defining the change you want before choosing the tools to achieve or measure it”.

Homecoming, A Place, by Estabrak

Andrew Clay, the trust’s chief executive, says: “We want our work to make an impact. Defining that impact before we plan our exhibitions and wider programme means we can ensure we are relevant and responsive to our communities all the time.”

Key to this progression is a commitment towards diversity, inclusion and equality of access, leading to the trust finding innovative ways to promote this message.

A wide range of artists, among them Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice, have been asked to create digital artworks, to be released online over the next four months across myriad social media platforms.

Dust, mixed media, by Wanja Kimani, 2019

Clay says: “It’s so important to have access to the arts and culture at this difficult time: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Simon Hedges, the trust’s head of curation, collections and exhibitions, says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before.

“We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Ave Maria Gracia Plena, by Jane Poulton

As part of its commitment to access, the trust has been working with artistic producer Sophie Drury-Bradey and disability activists Touretteshero to ensure people with diverse minds and bodies can become more engaged in its work.

Hedges says: “Before the lockdown, we started to explore how access can be a creative stimulus for our projects and how to extend a warm welcome to our disabled communities.

“We’re now looking at the lockdown as an opportunity to continue this work and find creative and imaginative ways of ensuring people can access our digital content.”

Shhh, Did You Hear That, by Kirsty Harris. Picture: © National Trust, Sutton House

The trust has committed to embrace a range of access “tools” to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm, for example, will create visual guides, or “social stories”, to provide audiences with downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content.

Alongside this, subtitles will be used wherever possible, with audio descriptions to follow. The first Gallery Screenings Online event this evening at 7pm will incorporate a live Q&A session being accompanied by live captioning.

Audio descriptions will support children and families with visual access requirements for the first digital commission by Kirsty Harris, narrated by 11-year-old Ruby Lynskey, from Scarborough.

Shadowing Revue – Ecclesiastes v Watercolour, gouache, ink and pen on paper, by Jade Montserrat, 2017. Collection of York Art Gallery

Supporting children and families to access content is important to the trust’s learning manager, Christine Rostron: “We’re looking at a range of ways to help families engage with the learning activities we’re about to launch online in fun, age-appropriate ways,” she says. “Using a local child to produce audio descriptions is much more relatable than the voice of an adult BBC presenter!”

The trust’s intention is to continue this work for the long term, as Clay reasons: “Being inclusive and accessible is not an add-on: it’s becoming part of our DNA.”

The artists involved in the New Digital Commissions project all will be participating in exhibitions at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda in 2021.

“We want our work to make an impact,” says Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Lucy Carruthers will explore how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Her interest in the relationship between inside and outside is all the more pertinent during lockdown, wherein she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming is a multi-layered touring and participatory project using community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges built around home, identity, and displacement.

The project started in 2019 in Hull and Brighton and now Estabrak will conduct the social experiment Homecoming: A Placeless Place, inviting honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Estabrak: One of the artists taking part in Scarborough Museums Trust’s New Digital Commissions project.. Picture: Ali Al Sharji

Kirsty Harris is constructing a new digital project for children and families during social distancing that imaginatively will bring to life objects in the trust collection to connect with children struggling with social isolation.

Wanja Kimani will be creating walking journeys from a child’s eye view as she spends more time noticing the world around her and her sensory experiences become amplified.

Jade Montserrat will consider the socio-political impact of lockdown and “encourage us to discover new ways of being based on mutual support, rather than a model that exacerbates existing social inequalities”.

Jade Montserrat, working on her The Last Place They Thought Of installation, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Picture: Constance Mensh

Jane Poulton’s series of photographs and text will focus on personal objects she owns in order to consider whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they bring.

Feral Practice will develop a digital artwork leading to a major commission on the theme of extinction for 2021.

The new digital works will be available to view shortly via Scarborough Museums Trust’s:

Website: scarboroughmuseumstrust.com

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw

Twitter: @SMTrust

Instagram: @scarboroughmuseums

Facebook: @scarboroughmuseums

Floodproof, Travelling Series, by Lucy Carruthers

2020 New Light Prize Exhibition to go ahead with end of May deadline for entries

Sir Tom Courtenay, by Isobel Peachey, an entry for a past New Light Prize Exhibition

THE New Light Prize Exhibition has been given the green light for 2020.

Turning the spotlight on northern art, this prestigious biennial event will be held this autumn, despite the Coronavirus pandemic that has forced many arts organisations into temporary closure. 

Rebekah Tadd, development director at New Light, says: “We’re very fortunate that the way our exhibition is organised means we’re able to go ahead as planned.

“The submissions process all takes place online – artists are invited to submit their works via our website by May 31 – and the judging process takes place online during the summer.

“The physical exhibition, which launches at Scarborough Art Gallery before going on tour to Carlisle, Newcastle and London, isn’t until mid-September, so we hope that, by then, we can go ahead without any changes.”

Andrew Clay: Chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2020, the exhibition will start at Scarborough Art Gallery for the first time, running there from September 19 to January 10 2021.

Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust, says: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the New Light Prize Exhibition to Scarborough Art Gallery.

“This exhibition’s policy of shining new light on northern artists is one we firmly believe in, so we’re thrilled to be involved and to able to support in this way.”

Artists who were born, live or have studied in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Westmoreland, County Durham and Northumbria can submit their work online at: newlight-art.org.uk/prize-exhibition/all-you-need-to-know/.

Judging this summer will be done by a panel of Royal Academy printmaker and artist Anne Desmet; RA Magazine editor Sam Phillips; Huddersfield Art Gallery curator Grant Scanlan and New Light chair Annette Petchey.

Scarborough Art Gallery, where the 2020 New Light Prize Exhibition will be launched in September. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

The prize winners will be announced at a private view at Scarborough Art Gallery on Friday, September 18.

Those prizes are:

The £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award: open to all artists aged over 18 with a connection to the north, whether through birth, degree level study or residence.

The £2,500 Patron’s Choice Award: presented on the night of the private view; all exhibited works are considered.

The Saul Hay Gallery Emerging Artists Prize: offering mentoring, professional advice and exhibition opportunities, including a solo show.

The Zillah Bell Printmakers’ Prize: all forms of original printmaking are eligible; the winner will be offered a solo exhibition at the Zillah Bell Gallery in Thirsk.

The Visitors’ Choice Award: visitors are asked to vote for their favourite work.

New Light Purchase Prize: the selected work is purchased by the charity to add to its collection.

Caravan Of Love, oil on canvas, by Christopher Campbell, an entry for a past New Light Prize Exhibition

The New Light Prize Exhibition will move on from Scarborough to Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, and finally The Bankside Gallery, London.

Established in 2010, New Light runs not only the biennial open exhibition for established and emerging artists, but also the New Light Art For All education programme of talks, workshops and school projects.

This spring, the New Light Collection is being launched with the aim of making “the best in northern visual arts” available to more people by loaning pieces, free of charge, to public bodies and charities.

The common thread that runs through everything New Light does is a “deep belief that the visual arts matter and the north of England deserves to be celebrated”.

New Light is run by a dedicated group of people with a passion for northern art and relies entirely on donations and sponsorship. For more information, go to newlight-art.org.uk.