People Powered: Stories from the River Tees originated from a partnership (called People Powered) with the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), which began in 2019. The NPG partnered with five galleries during the closure of their main building. MIMA is the fifth gallery involved in the partnership.
People Powered is about portraits and storytelling. MIMA's exhibition, People Powered: Stories from the River Tees begins with the concept of a portrait and builds it through imagination, storytelling and connections with place. The River Tees is a central theme connecting stories and associations. The exhibition presents many stories and raises questions about how we understand and associate with our surroundings. It also asks how we could do that differently, and how relationships with our natural and built environments may need to change. It asks what a modern portrait of a person can be, and what elements it can include.
The exhibition is a showcase of place-based storytelling, through different media, bringing forward many voices. It includes:
- A series of new portraits (River Portraits) commissioned by MIMA, placed alongside portraits loaned from the NPG Collection. Each person photographed for a portrait provided a short testimony connecting themselves with the river. Some connections are actual and some more imaginative.
- A strand of work with local primary school St Mary's. Artist Diane Watson led a programme of work based on an artwork from the Middlesbrough Collection., which then formed installations for the exhibition.
- A strand of with The Saturday Club (group of young people, aged 13-16) focused on river mythologies
- A strand of work with MIMA's The Club (group of elders) who created work for the exhibition and for the MIMA shop
- A soundscape and series of Sunday Music Sessions created by music duo A Man Called Adam
- A photo essay based around sites at the Port of Middlesbrough
- A film capturing experiences and memories of Greatham Creek
- A series of commissioned texts
- Works from the Middlesbrough Collection
- An extensive public programme which surrounds the exhibition.