As there are the 12 days of Christmas, I thought I would pick out 12 highlights over the past 12 months whilst sharing some of my own personal adventures during this time!
January saw the closure of the fabulous retrospective of the artist Sargy Mann with whom I had been privileged to work earlier in my career. Sargy’s rich paintings brought much needed colour and sunshine to lighten up our spirits and
we were delighted when the BBC came to film the show for a thought-provoking programme about artists with Visual Impairment and how it impacted on their work.
February – whilst the staff worked hard to deliver a whole range of Festival activity from a world first BSL Comedy Festival to wonderful children’s activity during Spark, I was off travelling around Columbia, encountering amazing street art, mining for emeralds, attending the world’s second largest street carnival and visiting a whole range of galleries and museums.
March – we opened the incredible Mariner 9 exhibition with a very popular launch party, with over 160 people in attendance, enjoying the art, stall from the Space Centre and meteorite collection. But then had to close the building for the safety of our customers and staff but not before creating 200 inclusive creative packs for our young people involved in our outreach programme, honoured payments to all the artists we had booked for the season and organised the technology necessary to work from home.
April –We worked with our Next Gen creatives – our young ambassador scheme who selected artist Emma-Lewis Jones to work with on an upcoming digital project. We also saw the launch of the Attenborough Arts Centre podcast series, talking to the artists working with us as well as local Leicester artists. Since the launch we’ve had over a thousand downloads and had people lining up to take part.
May – In may, we started work on making our building as safe as possible in preparation for our return including new screens, signage and improvements to our toilets. We also helped to convert the popular student event, Leicester Fiesta, into a digital platform, celebrating the wealth of creative talent across the 1000 students involved in the arts.
June – We finalised our new creative learning programming, taking a blended learning approach to ensuring our learners had access to the programme from the safety of their homes. We also worked with the disabled artist collective No Jobs in the Arts to create our very first Zine together, launching a commission for new and emerging artists across the East Midlands.
July We rolled out a summer competition for children asking them how they would want the world to be after COVID and created a calendar for the winners. Led by Jenny O’Sullivan from the visual arts team and working with the ERD team, the completed calendar was sent out in time for Christmas.
August We applied and received recovery funding from Arts Council England to support the loss of all of our income and launched our new website. I also managed to find new inspiration for public art commissions and our forthcoming Centenary in the hills and coastal towns of Liguria.
September. We secured funding to run an exciting new Creative Fellowship scheme giving the chance for 5 academics to work with 5 artists on projects that focus on equality and diversity, using our links to the university to start nationally important research.
October We launched Studio Attenborough to create new digital content not just for the AAC but to support artists and student societies to create and promote their work. We welcomed back students on campus with a new version of Wild Card Wednesdays to be delivered in Halls of Residence and set up a new set of performing arts commissions called Unexpected Tales that went on line every Thursday building up to 250 attendances per week and providing much needed financial support to our freelance sector.
November We had to close our building again but launched a new set of commissions in partnership with Disability arts online to support disabled visual artists during this difficult period as well as facilitating an Artists Take Over by the artist collective No Jobs in the Arts. We were delighted with the range and quality of the students who applied for the University Music Scholarships providing opportunities to work with both local professional artists and also Philharmonic Orchestra.
December. We had the amazing opportunity to interview the astronaut Tim Peake in preparation for a major new arts and science project next year called Little Inventors which will be working with a number of schools across Leicester including our SEN partnership schools involved in the Paul Hamlyn project. And finally we also had Keith join our team as the cinematographer for our new Studio Attenborough materials.
I leave with you the chance to listen to one of our fabulous new music scholars who also happens to work part time with us as our Visual Arts Trainee – Jenny O Sullivan playing the cello in the our Mariner 9 exhibition to mark its closure.
Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and look forward to welcoming you back to the AAC as soon as it is safe to do so.