Middlesbrough Art Weekender

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


The Middlesbrough Art weekender was an international festival I co-founded in 2017. It was funded by ACE, Middlesbrough Council, TVCA, MIMA, Tyneside Cinema and Teesside University. It was delivered in collaboration with local businesses, Platform Arts, Matts Gallery, Slugtown, CIRCA Projects, Creative Factory and Middlesbrough Town Hall. The research structure was through a temporary festival model to consider a town as a site and what the benefits were to disperse an exhibition amongst a town. Taking the idea of Bertolt Brecht’s, the interval where spectators stop spectating and actors stop acting, the festival introduced an innovate approach to re-energising a town through arts production in an area that had been void of public funding for decades. The significance was in the location and structure, to disperse commissioned work into non art spaces and to work directly with the local communities in the delivery of contemporary art. The festival included works (over 2017 and 2018 where I was head curator and director) This curatorial project presented a new perspective on the relationship between curation, visual art and its relationship to a town, Tess Denman Cleavers commission worked directly with the town hall to rethink its role as a community space through performance and sound. It involved work by, Benedict Drew, Amanda Beech, Milos Trakilovic, Omsk Social Club, Giles bailey, Wolfgang Bittner, Sharin Fahmi as well as over 100 more. It contributed new perspectives on contemporary visual practice and exhibition-making, documented in the production of new commissions and continued collaborations as can be seen in the Oncurating Issue 45 interview with Amanda Beech and the continued touring of Tess Denman Cleavers town Hall project (Oxford 2019). Contemporary art practice was used as a strategy for engaging with broader audiences, including those not typically visiting art exhibitions: in this instance, in locations across the tees Valley. This strategy was tested in a specific region, as it responded to an identified demographic with low participation in the arts and low ACE funding. It’s success, attested by The Arts Councils continued support as the festival launches its fourth year, and the use of the festival as a an example in, Sharon Paterson, Associate Director, Culture and Engagement, MIMA and Teesside University, interview with a case for culture – North East Cultural Partnership as an example of the cultural offer of the region with ambition towards the city of culture bid. This indicates that it could provide a case-study for further such projects in similarly identified communities with low arts engagement, nationally, and internationally. The project examined the significance of its chosen context, Middlesbrough, It identified strategies for developing new audiences outside of the gallery or museum in contemporary art curation. This project responded through ACE’s case for Culture and the identified need for North East communities to increase participation with the arts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2018
EventMiddlesbrough Art Weekender 2018 - Middlesbrough
Duration: 4 Oct 20187 Oct 2018


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