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New Art West Midlands 2014

Chinese class, 2013 © Lucy Hutchinson. Digital print 100x90cm

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Grand Union and Wolverhampton Art Gallery together present New Art West Midlands from February 2014, a curated exhibition across venues showcasing the new work and creative talent of emerging artists in the West Midlands region.

A Turning Point West Midlands initiative, New Art West Midlands will exhibit the work of 24 artists, all of whom graduated from one of the region’s undergraduate and postgraduate fine art degree courses in the past three years: Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Staffordshire University, University of Wolverhampton and University of Worcester.  Encompassing four nationally important galleries plus five universities, it is the largest partnership of its kind in England.

Five bursary artists have been selected to create new work, which will fill Grand Union’s entire space. Five artist prizewinners will also win the opportunity to undertake an exhibition, residency or project at a West Midlands gallery.


New Art West Midlands exhibition dates:

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 14 February – 18 May 2014 

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts,14 February – 27 April 2014

Grand Union, 14 February – 15 March 2014

Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 14 February – 10 May 2014


For updates and more information visit the New Art West Midlands website.



TPWM/Ikon event: Midwest to Midville: repositioning the visual arts in the Midlands

Photo credit: Cormak Faulkner, Sandra Hall, Cristina Lina, Suzi Osborn, Jenni Shuett and Simon Poulter. 'Stalker' mac birmingham micro-residency as part of the 2013 Artist Development West Midlands programme in partnership with the New Art Gallery Walsall and mac birmingham, supported by Turning Point West Midlands. 

Midwest to Midville: repositioning the visual arts in the Midlands

1-6pm, Monday 3 February 2014. Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
Midwest to Midville is a free symposium, organised by Ikon and Turning Point West Midlands, for visual artists, students and arts professionals. Looking at the past, the present and current ambitions for the visual arts in the region, this debate considers future opportunities for the sector. Special guest speakers include internationally acclaimed curator Matthew Higgs, White Columns Gallery, NY, and David Powell, co-author of the recent independent report Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital (2013).

Two panels, comprising writers, academics, artists and curators including Rachel Bradley, Lynda Morris, Marlene Smith and Daniel Pryde-Jarman, discuss Midwest (artists’ development programme in the West Midlands, 2003-2008) and Midville (a term coined in 1973 for Birmingham and Coventry Colleges of Art, and used again by Lynda Morris, New Art West Midlands catalogue essay, 2013). The discussion is chaired by Jonathan Watkins, Ikon Director.

This is a free event and booking is essential.  Places can be booked online here or by calling Ikon on 0121 248 0708. (Please note, places are limited. If you have booked and are unable to attend do let us know so we can offer your place to another person).


Additional info:

Midwest Panel – Considering the current visual arts ecology in the region and significant developments over the last fifty years. Midwest (2003-08) was an artists’ development programme and catalyst for creative thought in artist-led culture originated and emanating from the West Midlands. It aimed to develop the ambitions and capacity of artists through regional, national and international dialogue and develop a critical mass of nationally and internationally active practitioners.

Midville PanelMidville, a name used by Charles Madge and Barbara Weinberger in 1973 for Birmingham and Coventry Colleges of Art, is used again by Lynda Morris to denote ‘not-London’ in a 2013 exhibition catalogue essay for New Art West Midlands.

What does ‘not London’ mean for a region that includes the second largest city in the UK, a city that sits in such close proximity to London?

To what extent is self determination, a sense of self and place, a prerequisite for a vibrant arts scene in the region and success for its artists nationally and internationally? What are our assets?  How do we promote these, how do we shape the visual arts scene we want now and in the future?  What could Midville look like?

Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital (Peter Stark, Christopher Gordon, David Powell, 2013)



Artist Development: Dr Bharti Parmar selected for New Art Gallery Walsall micro-residency

Poundland Tile, 2013. © Dr Bharti Parmar. Wood, paper, Fablon. (30x30 cm)

We are delighted to announce that Dr Bharti Parmar has been selected for the Artist Development micro-residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall from 20 January - 2 February 2014. 

Bharti will use the residency to enable a concentrated period of research into marquetry and veneers as part of a broader ongoing project called The Marquetarian.  Using vinyl instead of wood, she will use the residency to test materials and techniques to explore ideas of deceit, mimicry and surface, engaging with the Gallery's use of Douglas fir cladding.  Over the fortnight, the Studio will gradually be transformed into a marquetry workshop where objects, artworks and panels are presented in the manner of a Wunderkammer.

Work in progress. Marquetry trials © Dr Bharti Parmar

Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions at the New Art Gallery Walsall said:

'The panel were impressed with the clarity and thoughtfulness of Bharti's application.  She has engaged with the specific opportunity of being resident within the building, her proposal is realistic given the time period and the transformation of the Studio should be both visually and intellectually stimulating for the Gallery visitor.'

Many thanks to those who applied for the opportunity. The panel felt that there were some excellent applications and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the quality and range of artistic practice in the West Midlands. 




Art Bus

This Wednesday from 5-9pm, enjoy the exhibitions and collections of five Birmingham galleries during evening openings with the free Art Bus travelling between venues. The Art Bus will visit Ikon Gallery, mac birmingham, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Eastside Projects and RBSA. A complimentary glass of wine and mince pies are available at selected venues.

The timetable for the evening can be found here.



New Art West Midlands 2014

Clockwise from left to right: A3 Project Space (Photo credit - Mahtab Hussain), The Library of Birmingham (Photo credit - Christian Richters), mac birmingham, The New Art Gallery Walsall, AirSpace Gallery (Photo credit G Stoker).

Turning Point West Midlands is pleased to announce that for New Art West Midlands 2014 we will work in partnership with five leading art organisations in the region to offer the NAWM prize winning artists the opportunity to undertake a project, residency, or show work following on from the exhibition.

The five organisations selected to participate in this new initiative are A3 Project Space, The Library of Birmingham, AirSpace Gallery, mac birmingham and the New Art Gallery Walsall.

New Art West Midlands 2014 will take place at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Grand Union and Wolverhampton Art Gallery from February to May 2014.



Last Artists' News and Opportunities Bulletin of 2013 published

The latest Artists' News and Opportunities Bulletin has been published and can be found here.

Please note: The next bulletin will be published on Thursday 9 January.

If you have anything you would like to submit please email: artistsnewsandoppstpwm[at]bcu.ac.uk



Sign Painting with Bob and Roberta Smith

UPDATE: Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances this event has been cancelled. Eastside Projects will try to reschedule the event for a later date.

For those that may have missed the Art Party Conference last month, from 12-5pm on Saturday, Bob and Roberta Smith will be at Eastside Projects to discuss the value of art and have extracts of conversations captured in signs painted by the artist in the gallery.

Exploring the relationship between humour, politics and society he consistently questions the viewer’s approach of their everyday environment, using the languages of folk, punk and alternative protest movements to demolish established values and authorities. 



Art Party Conference

Photo credit: Glen Stoker

Artist, lecturer, curator and member of AirSpace Gallery, Anna Francis attended The Art Party Conference in Scarborough last weekend courtesy of a bursary from Artist Development West Midlands. She has written the following about her experience:

Over 1,000 artists descended on the seaside town of Scarborough on Saturday 23rd November 2013  to march, chant, make, talk, debate, and generally explore the importance of arts in our education system.

The Art Party Conference described itself  as an antidote to all other conferences, saying:

'It’s not aligned with any political party but an opportunity to celebrate art and artists and acts as a forum for debating the future of the arts in today’s climate of spending cuts and changes to the education system. The Art Party hopes to influence decision makers to listen and to think again.'[i]

Photo credit: Glen Stoker

The day began with a growing collection of banner wielding artists on Scarborough Beach, who soon set off on a march up the beach to the impressive Spa Complex, corralled by artist Bob and Roberta Smith, who rallied the marchers with a chant of 'Where are we going?' Scarborough, 'Why are we going there?' at which point the chanting would break down as the complicated answer was 'To better advocate the arts to government.' Which was too much for the motley collection of artists, students and the public joining the march. Laughter rang out, as chants about avocadoes and 'get on with it' were heard.

The day started as it went on, hilarity often giving way to the serious message which had brought such a big crowd out on a November Saturday. Yes, the Art Party Conference felt light-hearted, fun and at times surreal, but everyone there must have been aware that what we are really advocating is recognition of the value of arts in society and education. The threatened stripping out of art from the curriculum, and the very real cuts already taking place mean not only a loss of livelihood for many present, but also, potentially the reduction of much that is bright and good in life.

In current Education Secretary, Michael Gove's world, ideally what he describes as non-traditional subjects will be weeded out, and his Minister, Liz Truss, goes further to explain, "We are rebalancing the curriculum towards high-value subjects – in maths, sciences, DT, computing, English and languages." [ii]

The description of the more academic subjects as high-value, of course hints at the notion of non-academic equalling low-value, and it is precisely this which I feel strongly, needs to be countered. In creating a subject value system like this, the government threaten to leave great swathes of young people out in the cold, and for no good reason. A society where only the academic is seen as worthwhile, is a society lacking in imagination, creativity, the ability to think differently and ultimately is a much, much poorer society and life experience on the whole. Artists and art are already undervalued, but with 14% less children taking GCSE Art this year, the future for the arts in society looks bleak.

I know that 14% less GCSE Art students means 14% less free thinkers, 14% less creative minds and 14% less well rounded young people able to make independent choices. And this figure looks set to rise if the current government gets its way. It feels like this favouring of non-creative subjects has been done on the sly, but now that we have woken up to it, something must and is being done.

Much of the festivities of the day centred around the main hall, where an artwork by Bob and Roberta Smith took centre stage: 'An Open Letter to Michael Gove'. During the day Gove's image became the focus of various performances, speeches, actions and there was even a Gove lookalike, who gave a pantomime style speech to boos and hissing.

Photo credit: Glen Stoker

There were stands, artworks, performances and talks taking place throughout the day. I was at the conference with AirSpace gallery, where we 'Took A Stand' designed by artists Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson. The stand offered participants the chance to write their own Manifesto; very fitting with the day’s themes, and also a chance to tell people about Pigdogandmonkeyfestos – an exhibition of artists’ Manifestos to be held at AirSpace in May, 2014 - I marched with the other artists, smashed Gove's head in at the Goveshy, and even had some inspirational nail art at the Arts Admin stall. But in the back of my mind I did think a few times, there is a lot of energy here, but are we preaching to the converted?

Photo credit: Anna Francis

 What is important now is how to build on the energy whipped up at the art party conference and see it is a catalyst for change: now that we all return to our busy everyday lives, what difference will one day in Scarborough make? How do we ensure the energy does not just dissipate?

One of the criticisms I heard voiced of the event was that it was all about Bob and Roberta Smith, using his connections to bring his famous art friends to the seaside for the day to celebrate his big idea. My view is that what we need now is big ideas, and we need people like Bob to use his artworld connections to gather support for this really important cause, so if that does involve ringing up your famous mates, then I'm all for it. Richard Wentworth was one of the big names there on Saturday, and he set out how important Bob and Roberta Smith's letter is. He made a public offer to meet Bob in London at a time and place of his choice to take a photo with Richard and the letter for the front page of the Telegraph. I hope it happens, and I hope that everyone in attendance, and the many other artists, and supporters of the arts that couldn't make it on Saturday see the Art Party Conference as a Call to Arms.

The Arts and Creativity in this Country are under attack and if ever there was a time to stand up for the arts, it is now. We have to get organised, speak up and speak out about the cuts.

So the question of whether the Conference has done any good will have to hang in the air for now, but what it did do was bring people together, to celebrate the arts, which is a very good start.


[i] Crescent Arts. (2013).What is it? Available: http://www.artpartyconference.co.uk/. Last accessed 27th November, 2013.

[ii] Polly Toynbee. (2013). In Michael Gove's world Jane Austen, Orwell and Dickens will die out. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/05/gove-austen-orwell-dickens-die-out?CMP=twt_fd. Last accessed 25th Nov 2013.

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