Hi, I’m Rowan and I have been working with the Art Collection for just over two years as a Team Assistant. Now in December 2023, my time as Team Assistant comes to an end.
Trying to sum up the last two years in just one blog post is quite a challenge. Here are just a few ways I’ve tried to summarise my time working with the Art Collection:
Over 400 meetings
Over 20 exhibitions
41 (now 42!) blog posts
12 major collaborative projects
1 entire store move
(plus an incalculable number of cups of coffee!)
Here are some snapshots that capture just a few of my standout moments from working with the Collection.
The many exhibition installs and take-downs I had the opportunity to work on, particularly installing Mollie Balshaw’s garden chair self-portrait for Theirs, Yours, Ours in the New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery back in 2022. I am still quite envious of those flaming socks.
I have loved learning about the nerdier side of collections care, from the agents of deterioration to environmental monitoring and the museum vac. Even a visit from the air quality control man was thrilling in the moment.
Learning all about Albert Adams through the Albert Adams: In Context project, and digitising so many of his works that they began to haunt my dreams. Alexandra Lawson’s presentation during the symposium diving into her conservation work on one of Adams’ paintings was truly fascinating, and I particularly loved seeing the microscopic layers of paint. And Greg Thorpe’s beautiful blog exploring Adams’ life and work through objects from his archive will stick with me for a long time.
Working with Gwen Riley Jones and the young people she connected with through Action for Conservation and Salford Youth Service. I was blown away by their confidence and generosity when sharing their thoughts about artwork. They have taught me to be more open-minded in the way I think about artwork.
Going Green! Being the Collection’s Green Champion over the last two years has been really rewarding. From stiffy bags (the silver reusable alternative to bubble wrap!) to Hybrid Futures, working with sustainability underpinning what we do, and seeing that work recognised through programmes like Green Impact and the recent Green Gown awards has been fab. Earlier this year I attended Art Action >> Climate Crisis, a two-day conference held by the Gallery Climate Coalition and Whitechapel Gallery; seeing and hearing from the network of people within our sector and beyond who care passionately about the environment and are taking steps to protect it has restored my faith a little.
It would be completely remiss of me not to talk about the amazing curatorial opportunities I’ve been entrusted with over the past year. Being invited to curate a collection exhibition for the New Adelphi Gallery was a huge honour. It was a daunting prospect choosing from all of the artwork in the Collection, but the work I chose for Visibilities I hope reflects just a little of the brilliant work the Collection has been doing over the past ten years.
Finally, I’ve still not completed processing Salford Scholars at The Manchester Contemporary, where months of planning, studio visits, and working closely with our partners at Castlefield Gallery culminated in one whirlwind of a weekend. I am so pleased with our presentation at the Contemporary, and working with all of the artists and partners involved was a treat. The Graduate Scholarship Programme really is something to shout about, with over 50 scholarships offered to graduates over the last ten years.
It would be impossible to touch on all of the things I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with while working in the Collection, and I think trying to capture all of the ways it has impacted me is futile as I won’t be able to do it justice. Working with Steph and Lindsay has been an absolute joy and I want to thank them both for being so generous in sharing their expertise and experience with me. I am excited for Sam Parker, the new team assistant who has joined the Collection as a fresh 2023 Graduate just embarking on this journey. Best of luck Sam! You can read his introductory blog and get to know more about him here.
Following on from 2021-22 where the Art Collection took home a platinum Green Impact award after participating for the first time in the University-wide Green Impact Scheme, this year for 2022-23 we are delighted to share that we have once again achieved a platinum Green Impact award for our ongoing sustainability efforts.
Green Impact is a United Nations award-winning sustainability engagement programme, run internationally by SOS-UK. Throughout the year, organisations across the globe work on sustainable actions in the Green Impact toolkit, each worth either 5, 10 or 15 points.
By completing actions worth over 500 points throughout the year, the Art Collection team has achieved a second Platinum award. Actions undertaken this year have included completing an energy audit with Marta Strzelecka, University Sustainability Engagement Officer and continuing to reduce single-use plastic and make sustainable swaps where possible across our work; swapping out bubblewrap for re-usable silver stiffy bags as recommended by the Gallery Climate Coalition, and continuing to use ecoboard over foamex and vinyl in our exhibition signage and materials.
In addition to day-to-day actions, our Green Impact submission this year also included our wider thematic work around sustainability, including the ongoing Energy House artist residencies and the Hybrid Futures programme.
For our Hybrid Futures‘ work, particularly around the Collective Futurescollaborative engagement programme, we were awarded the special Community Action Award. Collective Futures brings together individuals, invited by the Hybrid Futures‘ partners for their perspective on the climate crisis. Connecting around Hybrid Futures’ ongoing activity, the collective is collaborating to explore new ideas, possible solutions, and examples of creative work that has made an impact in local and global communities. With each member able to both bring their interests, experiences, and insights and share the group’s work back out to their communities, the collective is already proving a fruitful site of collaboration and sharing.
Additionally, Lizzie King was awarded the Student Leadership Award for her work on Sustaining Photography. MA Contemporary Fine Art student Lizzie has co-developed Sustaining Photography with socially-engaged photographer Gwen Riley Jones as an exhibition and programme of engagement for fellow students and the public, showcasing and promoting plant-based alternatives to traditional toxic photographic methods. If you would like to find out more about Lizzie’s work on Sustaining Photography, click here.
Art Collection Team Sustainability Champion, Rowan Pritchard shares: “Once again we are so pleased to be recognised for our ongoing sustainability work. From day-to-day activity to our overarching thematic focuses, working sustainability has come to underpin everything we try to do at the University of Salford Art Collection. It has been great to take part once again in Green Impact, and to see and celebrate all of the brilliant sustainability work happening across campus.”
Find out about all of the teams who participated in Green Impact across the University PLUS read more about the Green Impact programme on the University’s sustainability blog, here.
June 2023 Marta Strzelecka, University Sustainability Engagement Officer
The University of Salford Art Collection Team has been awarded two Green Impact National Awards: Innovation for Engagement and Sustainability Hero, for their continuing commitment to sustainability action and engagement.
Every year, Green Impact Special Awards are given out across institutions to people and teams who go above and beyond for sustainability. These Special Award winners are then put forward for consideration for the Green Impact National Awards. This year, the Art Collection Team received two national awards!
The first one – Innovation for Engagement – recognises ways in which Green Impact teams have engaged more people in sustainability activities, supporting staff and students to learn about and lead on sustainability. This award spotlights creative innovation in the engagement: the more people we can actively engage, the bigger the positive impact we can make.
The Art Collection Team, led by Team Assistant Rowan Pritchard, won thanks to the largest outreach and impact, international engagement and multiple stakeholders in their programmes and projects. At the end of last year, the Team also won a Platinum Green Impact award for their sustainability efforts within their department, including implementing an office switch-off campaign to save energy, ensuring the use of reusable items such as bags and packaging, and introducing plants to green up the office.
There’s a clear commitment to sustainability in the Team’s programme and way of working. The main sustainability actions taken by the Team to win the awards include:
The Are You Living Comfortably? photography project, showcasing work from artists McCoy Wynne, created through a pilot artists residency the Team hosted with the University’s Energy House facility and in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. The artwork, created in response to themes of climate change, energy efficiency and retrofitting, has been on display in both Liverpool and Salford during 2022, alongside displays of research materials, videos, and a series of online events and more to engage audiences of thousands. The work was also selected to feature online in the COP26 showcase, and has since gone on loan to Bury Art Museum.
The You Belong Here: Rediscovering Salford’s Green Spaces exhibition, displayed at Salford Museum & Art Gallery, was launched as part of the city-wide Rediscovering Salford programme, encouraging audiences of over 16,000 to reconsider and reconnect with the green spaces around them through exciting newly commissioned artworks in response to Salford’s parks and green spaces. Alongside the exhibition, the Team ran a programme of engagement including tours, talks, and workshops to encourage participants to engage with their own local environments and reconnect with the nature around them. The exhibition was led on behalf of the Salford Culture and Place Partnership, and the wider project was generously supported by Arts Council England and Suprema Lex.
The Peer to Peer: UK/HK 2022 project, led by the Team in collaboration with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, supported 9 UK visual arts organisations and 9 Hong Kong visual arts organisations, along with more than 43 artists, and over 160 students to connect, create work, and develop enduring partnerships internationally while rethinking the ways of working remotely to mitigate the environmental impacts of long-haul air travel. This resulted in an online festival, promoting these ways of working through talks and the artwork created during the project to encourage others to consider new ways of connecting with others while minimising their carbon footprint.
In response to winning the award, Rowan said:
Taking part in Green Impact has been a challenging and inspiring process. When we began on our Green Impact journey, I don’t think any of us expected that we would win a national award. It has been a huge honour to be recognised in this way and serves as a reminder of how impactful working sustainably can be.
As a part of our University and local community and as a resource people look to, it is important to us at the Collection that we not only encourage others to work in sustainable ways, but that we lead by example, and show how even the smallest acts contribute to wider change.
We are now more motivated than ever to continue our sustainability journey. Through projects like Hybrid Futures, we’re already thinking about how our sustainability work can be more wide-reaching, working in partnership with other arts organisations and artists, as well as a cohort of community leaders who we hope will be able to spread the learning and tools needed for working more sustainably even further than before.
The second award – Sustainability Hero – recognises a person with extraordinary commitment to sustainability within a Green Impact team, as nominated by their colleagues.
Gwen Riley Jones, the Socially Engaged Photographer-in-Residence with the Art Collection Team in 2021/22, won for going far beyond the actions outlined in the Green Impact toolkit. Her work in collaboration with youth groups explored non-toxic, plant-based methods of photography and printing. The judges described her process to achieve maximum engagement through their work as “impeccable”. The group’s work has been viewed by over 50,000 people through a display with partner organisation RHS Garden Bridgewater, and it is artistically promoting awareness of plant-based techniques. The judges loved the creative heritage links, too.
In the nomination, Gwen’s colleagues wrote:
Gwen Riley Jones is our team’s Sustainability Hero. Over the last 12 months she has worked with over 100 people at different creative workshops, exploring plant-based methods of photography and printing. This has included making her own spinach anthotypes, a plant-based method of printing using no chemicals. Her work with anthotypes and the Action for Conservation youth group led to an exhibition of the plant-based work at the RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford. Over 50k people visited this exhibition, raising significant awareness of plant-based methods of creating and hopefully inspiring others to explore sustainable ways of working.
At each step of the way she has considered sustainability, ordering reusable film cameras rather than disposable ones, printing all the exhibition materials on compostable boards, and ordering entirely vegan food for her week of activity with Action for Conservation.
Demonstrating incredible commitment to sustainability within her work, Gwen has continued to explore even further how she can reduce the number of unsustainable chemicals she works with, now exploring ways of creating photographic developers using composting vegetables. Gwen’s work over the last 12 months has really inspired us to take initiative as a team and really push the ways we can be more sustainable in our everyday practices.
In response to winning the award, Gwen said:
Issues around climate change and sustainability can feel overwhelming, but I have found that by collaborating with people and working together it feels more achievable. Each action, each thought, helps us to ask more questions and think about how we can change our practices – step by step – to create a bigger impact.
When we started this journey, I had no idea of the places it would go, I certainly didn’t expect to be winning any awards for it. It has been my privilege to collaborate with young people on these projects as, in my experience, they immediately have answers and I have learnt so much from working together.
This work will have no end and will continue to develop alongside the creativity. I have a huge thanks to give to the whole Art Collection Team for their commitment to sustainability and for their encouragement. Also, a huge thank you to the ever-expanding networks of people who are willing to share ideas and try new things to try to live, study and work more sustainably.
Gwen has since gone on to collaborate with MA Fine Art student Lizzie King and the University’s Sustainability Team, to produce a further series of events and displays on campus entitled ‘Sustaining Photography’ taking place in Summer/Autumn 2023, supported by the Advantage Fund.
The Team are grateful to Marta Strzelecka, University Sustainability Engagement Officer, for her support during the Green Impact project – and encourage any other departments thinking of joining to give it a go!
The national judging panel was made up of Vibhati Bhatia (Founder of South Asians for Sustainability), Charlotte Bonner (CEO of EAUC), Grace Corn (Senior Engagement Officer: Climate Emergency for Westminster City Council) and Rebecca Turner (Careers Pathway Manager at IEMA).
About Green Impact
Green Impact is a sustainability engagement programme, run internationally by SOS-UK. It’s a simple, fun and flexible way for departments to improve their environmental performance and champion sustainability at the University, whilst receiving recognition for their efforts and impact.
Colleagues form teams across the University and work through an online toolkit of actions together. A team can be any size and cover an office, building, department, or even a whole School or Division. Each action on the toolkit is allocated either 5, 10 or 15 points, and the team decides which actions to complete; the total number of points a team achieves will determine whether they receive a ‘working towards Bronze’ accreditation or a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum award.
Green Impact programme is open to all University of Salford staff members.