Photo courtesy James, Little Hulton Photography group

End of Year Reflections

Lindsay Taylor, Curator, December 2023

As we approach mid December, I find it a useful moment to reflect on the last 12 months and to highlight some of the achievements.

The year started with the Craig Easton: Is Anybody Listening exhibition launching at Open Eye Gallery, before travelling to Blackpool School of Art in spring and arriving in Salford this autumn. The response to Craig’s work has been amazing – but the real impact has been through the different engagement opportunities for young people in each location. I think all those present at the launch in New Adelphi on the 2 November realised the difference this project had made on the young people present. It was a truly magical moment! We are talking to Salford Youth Service about how we can build on this success together.  A massive to thank you to all our partners, freelancers especially Kit Abramson, Victoria Sanderson and Gwen Riley Jones, and of course the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting the project.

We have also been busy leading the Hybrid Futures project with our partners at Touchstones Rochdale, Castlefield Gallery, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, and Shezad Dawood studio, and with support from Arts Council England, Art Fund and Henry Moore Foundation. This is a multi-layered and complex project which tests new ways of working collectively to address climate change. I am looking forward to presenting all the new co-commissions by Shezad Dawood, Parham Ghalamdar, Jessica El Mal and R A Walden at Salford Museum and Art Gallery from March 2024. In tandem I have been participating in Collective Futures, an engagement programme bringing together different communities from across Salford, Rochdale, Manchester and Blackpool to consider the climate emergency through the lens of artists.  It has been fascinating to meet new people, to learn about how different artists approach the most important issue of our time, and to have space to reflect on what we could collectively do. We will be hosting a sharing event planned for 17th April. A big thank you to our partners, funders and the artists, plus our team of freelancers: Kit Abramson, Catharine Braithwaite, Danny Chivers and Kate Wafer.

On the theme of climate change – it has been a privilege this year to work with Prof Richard Fitton and his team at Energy House 2.0 on our artist is residence programme. Supported by Friends of Energy House 2.0 and presented in partnership with Open Eye Gallery and Castlefield Gallery we welcomed Mishka Henner in January and Emily Speed in July, each for 18 months. The conversations have been stimulating, wide ranging and have gone in directions no one would have predicted. I’m genuinely excited to see how Mishka and Emily interpret the work of the scientists and engage audiences in thinking about sustainable living – and can assure you this will be in unexpected ways!!!

In summer we appointed our tenth cohort of Graduate Scholars, and to mark the 10th anniversary of the programme we asked (outgoing Team Assistant) Rowan Pritchard to curate a booth at The Manchester Contemporary. She did a brilliant job, and with the support of Castlefield Gallery we presented work by 5 current scholars and alumni of the programme. It was wonderful to see Salford so well represented at the fair – with Paradise Works and Hot Bed Press hosting booths and with former Scholar Alena Donnelly from Islington Mill running a tufting experiment. By the end of the weekend we were all losing our voices from talking to so many different people about the artwork, the artists, the scholarship programme and of course our student offer in the School of Arts Media and Creative Technology. It was very helpful to have Rowan and Sam Parker (incoming Team Assistant) to share their personal experiences of studying at Salford, as well as having the support of  Phd candidate Nanke Ning. Well done everyone!

Rowan has now come to the end of her 2 year traineeship where she has developed her skills, grown her networks and built her CV. She reflects on her experience here. She has  been a pleasure to work with and amongst her many achievements has successfully led the team in the Green Impact Awards. A massive thank you Rowan and wishing you luck in all future endeavours. We also welcomed Sam Parker as our new Graduate Associate.  He has hit the ground running and you can read about his first few weeks here.

There are many other highlights – from touring The Storm Cone by Laura Daly to Blackpool, the Visibilities and Some Days I Feel Triangle exhibitions in New Adelphi, the Cecile Elstein display in Clifford Whitworth Library, loaning collection works to Bury Art Museum and others, and the various events we have contributed to or participated in. At a conservative estimate we have engaged well over 40,000 people both on campus and outside the university with the Art Collection in the last 12 months. 

It is also important to acknowledge the less visible work that happens in the background.  Having the art store facility has made a profound difference to how we can look after the collection, how the team works, and how we can engage students, staff and the public with the Collection. We have welcomed well over 100 people to the store including staff, students, as well as external contacts – curators, researchers etc, as well as youth groups from Salford. Stephanie Fletcher takes responsibility for caring for the University Art Collection and Art Store and has also led on several new acquisitions – you can find out more in a forthcoming blog. Thank you Steph for all your hard work and support.

This is my tenth year at Salford – and I approach 2024 with real excitement about the future. Partnership is at the heart of much of our work and true partnerships take time to develop. There feels to be a real shift in the city – with new and existing cultural and civic leaders coming together for the benefit of all people in Salford. I welcome this collaborative sense of ambition, exploration and experimentation, and look forward to engaging more people through new and existing partnerships in 2024. Finally I would like to thank the University leadership for continuing to support and invest in the work of the Art Collection team.

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas, and a peaceful and joyous 2024.

Lindsay Taylor