Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience: Creation, Consumption and Exchange

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: School of Arts and Cultures

Abstract

'Mapping contemporary art in the heritage experience: Creation, Consumption and Exchange' is an interdisciplinary research project that will critically examine the role and practice of temporary visual art commissioning within heritage properties in Britain today, mapping the current landscape and exploring the impact of this activity on its producers and audiences. It approaches this subject from multiple perspectives, bringing together the knowledge and experience of scholars, artists, heritage professionals, volunteers and visitors.
Art commissioning has always been linked with Britain's great historic properties. Recent decades have seen many heritage organisations vigorously re-engaging with contemporary art, investing in this as a way of developing new opportunities for public engagement with heritage properties and their histories. Arts organisations including Arts Council England (ACE) strategically support this work, promoting it as a significant means of fulfilling their mission to promote excellence and public benefit. For many artists commissioned work for heritage properties is an increasingly important strand within their practice.
However, and despite strong support from major organisations including the National Trust and ACE, the actual impact of such projects on their producers and audiences is poorly understood. Similarly there is little collective professional understanding of the broader character of the contemporary arts in heritage field and its commissioning practices. As a creative practice-led collaboration with two major UK heritage partners this project makes a strong and unique contribution to the production of new knowledge around this significant but under researched area of the visual arts.
Through case study research centring on the development of new art commissions at four heritage properties the project will explore in detail how contemporary artists engage with heritage narratives and how these artworks are received and consumed by visitors. The case studies will be accompanied by the production of a new online resource that develops, expands and digitises an existing audit of such projects making this publicly available as a platform for further professional exchange. In doing so the research will generate a better understanding of UK contemporary arts in heritage practice and its future development needs. To deliver the project, specialist scholars and artists from Newcastle and Leeds Universities will be joined by a professional curator from the leading art in heritage organisation Art & Heritage to work in partnership with ACE, The National Trust, Churches Conservation Trust and the Contemporary Visual Art Network.
The new understandings and insights generated by the project will be disseminated across the contemporary arts and heritage sectors. This will be achieved through the use of complementary channels designed for different target audiences: the public exhibition of the commissioned artworks at the heritage properties; a website and blog that will document the project for an online audience; a project exhibition profiling the commissioning process for the benefit of an arts and practitioner audience; a research report for circulation to our project partners, strategic arts and heritage organisations and relevant policy makers; an international conference aimed at sector specialists and academic audiences; conference papers and published articles in academic and professional journals.
As public facing research this project will have specific benefit for practitioners, organisations and heritage visitors as well as for other academics working in the contemporary arts and heritage field, including creative-practice led researchers. It has the capacity and potential to stimulate new public interest in contemporary arts in heritage practice in the UK and internationally as well as providing much needed new knowledge for the sector, including for its funders and policy makers.

Planned Impact

Through its research outputs the project has the potential to impact on three significant interest communities: (1) Heritage site visitors; (2) Practitioners working in the contemporary visual arts and the heritage sector; (3) UK visual arts and heritage organisations, including major UK funders and policy makers. How will these three communities benefit from our research?

(1) Heritage site visitors: The on-site exhibitions will give heritage visitors an opportunity to experience and engage with high quality contemporary art made in response to the specific environments and heritage contexts of the four properties. Through these encounters audiences will be presented with new and alternative ways to access the stories and histories of the four sites, which go beyond standard approaches to heritage interpretation. For regular and return visitors the commissioned artworks will provide opportunities to question and refresh their knowledge and experience of the property, potentially adding a new dimension to their appreciation and understanding of the site. For focus group participants the project will provide an intensive contemporary art in heritage experience that could stimulate future interest in and enjoyment of heritage and of the contemporary arts.

(2) Arts and heritage practitioners: The online digital resource and the project conference provide new routes for knowledge exchange, understanding and innovation between practitioners working in the contemporary visual arts and in the heritage sector. In particular these outputs will support artists, curators, heritage managers, education and interpretation specialists wanting to enter into the contemporary arts in heritage field or wanting to exchange and showcase their own projects and experiences. The artwork case studies, artists' talks and the Ex-Libris exhibition will provide insights into the commissioning processes behind the artworks, adding significantly to practitioners' understanding of the potentials and problems of commissioning contemporary visual arts for heritage sites. Through participation in the conference, as presenters and attendees, practitioners from both fields will access a broad range of perspectives on contemporary visual arts in heritage practice, significantly expanding their understandings of this field and generating new opportunities for professional networking and future project development, including with the HE sector. For the artists involved directly in the research the project will provide a substantial opportunity to extend their creative practice showcasing their work to new audiences in the heritage, contemporary art and academic worlds.

(3) Visual arts and heritage organisations: Our research will have specific benefit for our two heritage partner organisations, the National Trust (NT) and the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT). It will directly feed into both organisations' understandings of the contemporary visual arts commissioning process and the impact of site-specific contemporary artworks on the audience experience of their properties. In doing so this research will make a valuable contribution to the future development of contemporary arts activity and strategy at NT and CCT. A briefing paper summarising key learning and research outcomes will also be prepared for Arts Council England (ACE), the key funder of current contemporary arts in heritage practice in the UK. We will also seek active routes for sharing our findings with other key heritage organisations not directly involved as partners in this project, including the Canals and Rivers Trust, English Heritage, Landmark Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Through this engagement and in providing empirical and academic standard research the project has the potential to make a strong contribution to future strategy development in this area of practice, going beyond the more sector-driven project evaluations and market focused studies so far conducted in this field.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Commission proposals for National Trust and Churches Conservation Trust properties. 
Description Artists Brigitte Jurack, Jo Coupe, Gemma Burditt, Mira Calix, Marcus Coates, Emily Taylor and others were asked to produce commission proposals for three heritage properties: National Trust Gibside, National Trust Cherryburn and Holy Trinity Church Sunderland. These were presented to a panel of heritage staff who, working with the project team, made a selection that would be installed in the properties. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Heritage staff reported that their understandning of the art commissioning procees, and the value of art commissioning for heritage properties was changed as a result of the project. 
 
Title Gogmagog 
Description A sound installation commissioned as a part of the research project 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience'. Created by artist Matt Stokes, in collaboration with musicians, composers and others based in Sunderland, Gogmagog was commissioned for the Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland. The exhibition was open to the public from June to September 2018. The work was based on the score of a 'lost' bell peal composed in the 19th Century and recreated this peal with the participation of numerous local participants. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact There are numerous recorded testaments to the impact of this work, on local people who do not generally visit art exhibitions, on the commissioning organisation and on the artist himself - these are a few of many examples. I went up to HT [Holy Trinity Church] again this afternoon to have a proper listen to the piece. Oddly, its the first time I have been able to listen properly without any background noise, from start to finish. I was not prepared for it to be the moving and emotional experience it turned out to be. What you have done with a simple quarter peal of Bob Triples is both unique, and fabulous. I think you should be very proud indeed of what you achieved. As you know, I would dearly love a copy on CD if it can be done! (so would a few other people) Matt Stokes, the artist himself commented: I thought the atmosphere at the launch was great and very welcoming. One thing I felt was particularly successful was that the majority of people weren't 'art crowd', but made up of local residents, people I met during the research and musicians/singers. I had quite a few positive comments from people who came along, especially from the bellringers who were very curious as to how it all might end up sounding. Amanda Gerry, who worked on the commission for the Churches Conservation Trust, commented: I worked in Holy Trinity during the Tall Ships festival and the numbers of visitors to the space has been phenomenal (more than we had all year last year!), lots were drawn in by the music and we have had some fantastic feedback. We love Gogmagog .. (and Matt of course) he has really been able to relate to and bring alive the story of people and place which is exactly what Sarah and I were hoping for from the beginning, and it's had such good feedback. 
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Title The Orangery Urns, Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience 
Description Ceramic sculptures by artist Andrew Burton One of a set of contemporary artworks commissioned for a heritage property - in this instance National Trust Gibside - by the research project Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience. (MCAHE) 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Gibside is the National Trust's most visited property in North East England. MCAHE invited audiences and property staff to describe their response to the artwork. Listed below are the responses from National Trust staff describing the ways in which Gibside, as a visitor business, found having art within and around the walled garden to be beneficial to their operation. These successes are based on the experiences of the staff and volunteer teams, visitor behaviour and the benefit to us as a business. - Having art within and around the gardens has given Gibside unique and individual interpretation which catches the attention of visitors. With less than a second to grab someone's attention and make an impact, traditional forms of interpretation often fail to intrigue visitors in a dynamic and engaging way. The impressive visual impact of the urns in the garden creates a vivid first impression. The urns have provided a very useful hook for telling our story. In particular our tour guides have found them an engaging way of introducing people to Mary Eleanor's story. - Gibside's involvement with MCAHE in general has been an engaging experience for our volunteers. For our garden volunteers the urns have had a particular impact. Members of the team have had a real sense of pride in caring for the planting within the urns and talking to visitors about them and why they are here. Caring for the planting has created a sharp sense of stakeholdership among individuals and buy-in from the wider volunteer team for Gibside's future projects. - The process of commissioning, installing and talking about the artworks has challenged the Gibside team and our ways of thinking. The process was new to us all. It us to welcome creatives to Gibside for future projects. We have more confidence in the process. - The artwork has seen an increased engagement with Gibside's story from our visitors. As part of the National Trust's wider Women and Power National Public Programme, visitors have welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the female stories at National Trust places. At Gibside a spike in book sales about Gibside's story is evidence of visitor interest and activity of the volunteer research group to understand more of the hidden stories of Gibside among the volunteer base. - Visitor data shows a change in visitor composition. For Gibside, one of the objectives of involvement with MCAHE was diversification of our visitor makeup. In particular we wanted to welcome more visitors we categorise as Young Independents through our doors. Between May and October 2018 we welcomed 10,007 Young Independent visitors (17.05% of our visitors) compared to 7081 visits in 2017 (10.19% of our visitors). Compare this also with a regional average of 9.16% of Young Independent visitors it is evident this summer Gibside saw an increase in this visitor segment. We used targeted marketing to support this drive. For example, adverts in printed publications such as The Crack. With a readership mainly in central Newcastle The Crack is a more accessible publication appealing to a younger audience. - Introducing creative interpretation to the gardens has energised volunteer creativity in other ways. For example, our volunteer sewing group have created their own interpretation of Gibside's story by creating stitched and embroidered tapestries for the chapel. The group felt confident to embrace creative ways of telling Gibside's story on the back of the artwork. Why we would like the urns to remain at Gibside for longer - On a storytelling level the urns have real potential to tell children our story. Gibside has welcomed 10310 school children so far this year. The urns are a fantastic visual tool for engaging children with Gibside's story and with art. We would be happy to support any additional research elements at Gibside which might explore how children and young people feel and respond to the artworks. - During the winter months the greenery and plants in the garden die back and the walled garden loses a lot of its colour and vibrancy. To some this gives the urns an increased visual impact in the garden and an opportunity for us to drive a secondary wave of storytelling. We feel there is more learning to be done for the Gibside team, in particular using the urns as a storytelling tool during the winter. 
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Title The Yellow Wallpaper 
Description The Yellow Wallpaper was a sound installation created by artist Susan Philipsz as part of the project 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience'. The project was co-commissioned by MCAHE and English Heritage for the English Heritage property Belsay Hall in Northumberland and was on exhibition during the summer of 2018 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Members of the visiting public reported finding the work beautiful, enigmatic and moving. 
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Title Walking, Looking and Telling Tales 
Description An exhibition of small paintings commissioned by the artist Mark Fairnington. The paintings were commissioned as part of the research project 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience' and were a response to the life of the engraver Thomas Bewick and his home at Cherryburn, Northumberland. Cherryburn is now owned by the National Trust, a partner in the research project and the exhibition, held in the birthplace at Cherryburn was open to the public from June 2nd - 4th November 2018 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The main impacts were on the property staff, who gained a new understanding of the value of contemporary art in shaping visitor perceptions and appreciation of Cherryburn and the stories of Bewick, on visitors to the property and on Mark Fairnington, the artist who has reported that the project has reshaped his approach to paining, resulting in further landscape paintings and other commissions. 
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Title Your Sweetest Empire is to Please 
Description Your Sweetest Empire Is To Please Fiona Curran The title of Fiona's Curran's work for Gibside is taken from a poem by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) which is quoted by Mary Wollstonecraft in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) as an example of women being depicted as delicate or exotic flowers, 'born for pleasure and delight alone.' The artist has responded to the harrowing and dark story of Gibside's first female owner Mary Eleanor Bowes by focussing on her aspiration to become recognised as a serious botanist and collector of plants. The Orangery you see before you was Mary Eleanor's finest achievement; it was here she cultivated her plants and flowers, aided by her loyal gardener. Mary Eleanor also sponsored a plant collecting trip to the African Cape. Plants were transported back from countries all over the world in containers that mimicked greenhouses, allowing the plants to be shielded from salt water but to absorb light. The Wardian Case was a perfect example of such a container and through her research for this work for Gibside, Fiona visited Kew Gardens to see the only original example left in England. With craftsman John Smith, she has scaled up the Wardian Case to become a striking contemporary architectural feature. Your Sweetest Empire is To Please celebrates Mary Eleanor's life and those of women who were repressed by society and/or relationships, their education and aspirations stifled and contained. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The National Trust Gibside reported increased visitor numbers amongst particular target age groups. They also reported that audiences had understood the story of Mary Eleanor Bowes in new and different ways as a result of the commission. The project also coincided with the National Trust's national theme for 2018 'Women and Power' 
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Description The selection process for our artists commissions are already impacting on processes used by heritage organisations. An additional partner in our project, English Heritage have taken on board our research in joining with us to commission a new artwork for one of their heritage sites. Our research has been highlighted in art/heritage media outlets.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Faculty Impact Award
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Newcastle University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Title MCAHE database 
Description Data on visual art projects in heritage sites in the UK since 1990 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Conference abstracts 
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Description English Heritage. Belsay commission 
Organisation English Heritage
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution English Heritage are coming on board as a collaborating partner in this project to commission a new artwork for Belsay Hall
Collaborator Contribution English Heritage are contributing both funding and in-kind support. They have also successfully raised funds from Arts Council England for this commission
Impact none yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description English Heritage. Belsay commission 
Organisation English Heritage
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution English Heritage are coming on board as a collaborating partner in this project to commission a new artwork for Belsay Hall
Collaborator Contribution English Heritage are contributing both funding and in-kind support. They have also successfully raised funds from Arts Council England for this commission
Impact none yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description National Trust, Collaborations on art commissions 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The National Trust are a key partner in the research project 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience'. Three of the project commissions by artists Fiona Curran, Mark Fairnington and Andrew Burton have been at National Trust properties in North East England (Gibside and Cherryburn) and the National Trust team have been closely involved with the project at all levels, for example senior management in guiding the project and property teams - including volunteers - working closely with the academic research team on the practical aspects of the artworks.
Collaborator Contribution The National Trust team have been key players throughout the project - they have co-created the commission briefs, sat on the selection panels, been closely involved in all aspects of the commissioning process including the practical business of installing the artworks
Impact Artworks, workshops, public facing events, exhibition talks, exhibition guides and interpretive material, seminars, presentations,
Start Year 2017
 
Description Out of Place, TWAM 
Organisation Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution we are working with TWAM on exhibition development and delivery
Collaborator Contribution TWAM are working with us on exhibition and delivery
Impact exhibition plans
Start Year 2018
 
Description A film made by teh Baltic Centre for Contempoary Art film makers Gary Malkin and Sarah Boutell 'Andrew Burton, The Orangery Urns' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact one of four films commissioned documenting the creative process behind the creation of the visual artworks for the research project 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Description Focus group workshop. Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A series of focus group discussions in front of the artworks created for 'Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience'. The focus group meetings aimed to introduce the works and explore how they changed audience understanding and appreciation of their heritage property visit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Description Presentation at Newcastle University Heritage Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was an event organised by Heritage@Newcastle to raise awareness across the sector of University research engaging with heritage issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Project launch event for stakeholders in the activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Over 60 people from heritage organisations, funders, other stakeholder organisations and academia attended a launch event for our project. This was an opportunity to introduce the project and invite discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Pupblic launch of artworks and artist's talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 150 visitors attended a public launch of the art commissions 'The Orangery Urns' by Andrew Burton and 'Your Empire is My Sweetest Desire' by Fiona Curran. Each artist gave a talk in front of their works (each was situated in the open airt at the National Trust property 'Gibside'. Whilst an admission charge is usually payable, visitors attending for the event were able to gain free access to the property.
The talks introduced the public to the works, and sparked discussion. The National Trust have reported the impact on their activities, and these are set out in the 'artworks' section of this project report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Description Soup Suppers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Matt Stokes organised a number of 'soup suppers' where participants in his project and members of the public were invited to share a bowl of soup over a discussion of the project, music and singing. These were always popular events, and helped bring knowledge of our project to its audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://research.ncl.ac.uk/mcahe/
 
Description studio visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A studio visit was made by members of the National Trust team to view and discuss research being developed in my artist studio in Newcastle.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018