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Midwest to Midville: repositioning the visual arts in the Midlands

Monday 3 February 2014, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

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. 

Our symposium Midwest to Midville: repositioning the visual arts in the Midlands organised in partnership with Ikon Gallery, took place on Monday 3 February. Contemporary art magazine This is Tomorrow were there to broadcast the event live.

Midwest to Midville was a free symposium 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 considered future opportunities for the sector. Special guest speakers included 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, a councillor and curator, discuss past, present and possible futures of the visual arts in the Midlands. 

The event is now available to be viewed via the videos below:

Video 1:

10.10 - 20.55 -  Welcome from Jonathan Watkins (Ikon Gallery)

20.55 - 1:11:24 - Keynote speaker: David Powell ‘Rebalancing our Cultural Capital’ + Q&A (moderated by Jonathan Vickery, University of Warwick).

1:11:24 - 1:38:36 - Midwest - Roundtable discussion: Rachel Bradley (freelance curator, Daniel Pryde–Jarman (artist and curator), Marlene Smith (artist and curator), Steve Trow (Sandwell Council) (Part One)


Video 2:

00:00 - 34.15 - Midwest - Roundtable discussion: Rachel Bradley (freelance curator, Daniel Pryde–Jarman (artist and curator), Marlene Smith (artist and curator), Steve Trow (Sandwell Council) (Part Two) + Q&A Chaired by Debbie Kermode (Ikon Gallery).


Video 3:

00:00 - 35:17 Keynote speaker: Matthew Higgs (Curator, White Columns Gallery NY) + Q&A session.

35:17 - 1:39:06 - Midville - Roundtable discussion: Wendy Law (TPWM), Lynda Morris (Norwich University of the Arts), Jonathan Shaw (Coventry University), Gavin Wade (Eastside Projects)+ Q&A session.

1.39:06 - 1:46:41 - Closing Comments – John Butler (Birmingham City University)


Midwest* Panel – Considering the current visual arts ecology in the region and significant developments over the last fifty years, since the beginning of Ikon (est. 1964), featuring: Michael Baldwin (Art & Language), Rachel Bradley, Daniel Pryde – Jarman, Marlene Smith, Steve Trow (Sandwell Borough Council).
Midville** Panel – 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?

Featuring:  Wendy Law (TPWM), Lynda Morris (Norwich University of the Arts), Jonathan Shaw (Coventry University) and Gavin Wade (Eastside Projects). Panels are moderated by Debbie Kermode and Jonathan Watkins and each will be followed by an opportunity for Q&A.


Additional information
*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, 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.
This is the opening event of Ikon 50, the year-long programme celebrating Ikon’s 50th anniversary.



Contributor Profiles:

Michael Baldwin

Artist, Art & Language

Michael Baldwin is one of the founders of Art & Language, an international group of artists, started in Coventry. The name Art & Language was first adopted in 1968, to refer to a collaborative practice that had developed over the previous two years between Michael Baldwin and Terry Atkinson, in association with David Bainbridge and Harold Hurrell. Over the next several years it stood for a collaborative practice with a growing and changing membership associated with the journal Art-Language, first published in May 1969.  In the following year Mel Ramsden and Ian Burn merged their separate collaboration with Art & Language. From 1976, the genealogical thread of Art & Language’s artistic work was taken solely into the hands of Baldwin and Ramsden, with the theoretical and critical collaboration of these two with Charles Harrison who died in 2009. Baldwin and Ramsden are preparing an exhibition at MACBA in Barcelona in September 2014 and at the Lisson Gallery in November 2014.



Rachel Bradley

Freelance curator

Rachel Bradley is a freelance curator from the West Midlands. In the 1990s she worked at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and Public Art Commissions Agency, Birmingham. Over the past fifteen years she has worked independently as a curator, project organiser and public art consultant in the region, nationally and internationally.  She was co-curator of the Selective Memory exhibition, Scotland’s representation at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) and co-director of Midwest - Artists’ Support Agency for the West Midlands (2003-2008).  Bradley is currently Project Organiser of the New Art West Midlands 2014 exhibitions which showcase selected work by new graduates of the five university art schools based in the region.


Professor John Butler

Birmingham City University

John Butler is Professor of Art and Head of Birmingham School of Art.  He has also been Acting Associate Dean Research for Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (2010-2013) delivering the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2008-13. He is Chair of Turning Point West Midlands, an Arts Council England initiative to prioritise the visual arts and develop visual arts strategies within the national regions. He was co-founder of SPACEX Exeter 1978, the first artist-led gallery outside of London and more recently Eastside Projects, an independent artist-led gallery 2007. An artist and arts educator he has been a guest professor in numerous international higher arts education institutions including Willem de Kooning Rotterdam, Stadelschule Frankfurt, National College of Arts & Design Bergen and the University of Barcelona. In recognition to his contribution to arts education he was elected President of the European League of the Arts (ELIA) 2000-04 representing over 350 Higher Arts Education institutions and has received two Honorary Doctorates.



Matthew Higgs

Curator, White Columns Gallery, NY

Matthew Higgs is an English curator, writer and artist currently living and working in New York. A former Director of Exhibitions at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, Higgs is currently the Director and Chief Curator of White Columns, New York's oldest non-profit art space. Over the past fifteen years he has organised more than two hundred and fifty exhibitions and projects in Europe and North America. His writings have appeared in more than fifty books, catalogues and periodicals, including Artforum and Frieze. Higgs has taught extensively over the past fifteen years and was previously a lecturer at Goldsmiths College, London and the Royal College of Art, London, and he was the co-chair of the MFA program at the California College of the Arts (CCA), San Francisco. Higgs has lectured internationally and has sat on many panels and juries including the 2006 Turner Prize at Tate Britain, London. Higgs has shown his own work internationally since 1992 and is represented by Murray Guy, New York; and Wilkinson, London.



Deborah Kermode

Deputy Director, Ikon Gallery

Deborah Kermode has been at Ikon since October 2011. From 2009 Kermode was the Director of Bright Space, an arts education charity that delivered the Creative Partnerships programme for Birmingham and developed cultural opportunities for children and young people. After completing an MA in Museum Studies at Leicester University, Debbie became curator at Ikon where she developed the internationally acclaimed off-site programme. More recently Kermode worked as producer for Fierce! Festival promoting ground breaking live art across the West Midlands by inserting it in to innovative public situations. She continued to pursue this practice of participatory work with Birmingham Opera Company, RSC and Capsule bringing programmes as diverse as opera, live art and heavy metal music to younger audiences.

She is also on the board of Pentabus Theatre Company, Fierce Festival and a governor at Dame Ellen Pinsent Special School.



Wendy Law

Director, Turning Point West Midlands (TPWM)

Wendy Law is an independent Visual Arts Manager specialising in Arts Policy, Cultural Planning, Arts Funding, Art Market, Collections and Artist Professional Development. Since 2010 she has been hosted by Birmingham City University as Director of Turning Point West Midlands (TPWM).  Wendy has undertaken work for a number of organisations including Animate Projects, The Maltings, The Harris Museum and Autism Initiatives Scotland. As a collections specialist she has produced reports for Arts Council England: Funding Contemporary Art Collections and Collecting in the Regions - Models, Partnerships and International Comparisons (2008), for BBC Scotland and NHS Lothian. At the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) 1995-2007 Wendy was curator of the Art Council's art collection before setting up The National Collecting Scheme, Scotland (NCSS). She was also responsible for managing the Artist Development portfolio including grants to artists, international residencies and for collection development and art fair participation. 




Professor Lynda Morris

Chair of Curation and Art History, Norwich University of the Arts

Lynda Morris is the founder and curator of EASTinternational (1990 – 2009) and as curator of the Norwich Gallery 1980 - 2009 at Norwich University of the Arts.  As a curator, historian and tutor she edited Unconcealed: The International Network of Conceptual Artists 1967 - 77 - Dealers, Exhibitions and Public Collections after the death of her PhD student Sophie Richard with Ridinghouse/Karsten Schubert 2009 and Conception, Conceptual Documents 1968 to 1972 with Catherine Moseley in 2000. She organised the Artists International Association 1933 - 1953 at MOMA, Oxford (1983) and edited Third Text 15: British Art and Immigration 1870 - 1990.  Morris curated Picasso: Peace and Freedom for Tate Liverpool, Albertina and Louisiana (2010-11). Dear Lynda… an exhibition about her work was organised by Matthew Higgs White Columns Gallery, NY (2012) and finished its tour at Eastside Projects in 2013.  She curated Vanley Burke’s By the Rivers of Birmingham exhibition at mac birmingham touring to Johannesburg July 2014. Morris is now working with Barbara Walker on her upcoming show at mac birmingham in 2015. 



David Powell

Cultural researcher and animateur

David Powell, one of the three authors of Rebalancing our Cultural Capital, is a cultural researcher and animateur. Powell played a leading role in the development of Inter-Action, the influential arts, education and community development agency between 1969 and 1985. From 1991-2011 Powell and his company, DPA, provided research and strategic advice and delivered cultural infrastructure in the North East (The Case for Capital, BALTIC), Brighton (Brighton Dome and Creative Brighton) and Derby (QUAD). He has worked throughout East London since 1985, supporting artists, local authorities and cultural networks and is a Visiting Professor at University of East London’s London East Research Institute. Powell led the board of Camden Arts Centre through its widely acclaimed rebuild and relaunch (1998-2007). A board member of ACAVA and the National Federation of Artists’ Studio Providers, Powell now chairs Film and Video Umbrella, which is celebrating 25 years of commissioning arts to make moving images.



Dr Daniel Pryde-Jarman

Artist and curator

Dr Daniel Pryde-Jarman is an artist and curator who has been involved in setting up and running several artist-run spaces, including Grey Area (2006-2012), Brighton, and Meter Room project space & studios (est. 2011), Coventry, which has recently developed to become an arts charity specialising in affordable studio provision and supporting early-career artists and recent graduates. His practice-based PhD at Coventry University researched into artist-curatorship, artist-run spaces and the politics of self-organised artist-led culture. Pryde-Jarman is Course Leader for the Foundation Art & Design course at the University of Brighton's International College and lectures on the University of Lincoln's MA Contemporary Curatorial Practice course.



Jonathan Shaw

Coventry University

Jonathan Shaw is Associate Head of Media Department (Innovation, Profile & Research) at Coventry University. A photographer, his work has been published alongside photographic pioneers such as Eadweard Muybridge and Harold Edgerton. Shaw led the team which pioneered free and open photography educational resources at Coventry University; the classes picbod.org & phonar.org have been accessed by thousands of people worldwide; the apps developed have been called groundbreaking; the iTunesU collection he curates has just surpassed its millionth listen. As an Adobe Education Leader, Shaw forms part of their worldwide community championing creativity in education. He was awarded a Direct Fellowship of Royal Photographic Society (RPS) for his achievements in the field of photography, and a Fellowship of the RSA, in recognition for his work in photography education practices.



Marlene Smith

Artist and curator

Marlene Smith was born in Birmingham where she bases her practice. She presents curatorial projects under the title The Room Next To Mine and in 2013 hosted the first in a series of study days discussing the work of artists Amanda Holiday, Barbara Walker and Claudette Johnson. In 2012 she organised and co-chaired Re-framing the Moment conference at the University of Wolverhampton to commemorate 30 years since the first national black arts convention there. She was a recipient of a Nesta Fellowship and spent six months in Shanghai (2009-10). Joining the team at The Public in 2001 she went on to set up Public Gallery Ltd, a space and a programme for the exploration of participation. She was Director of the Black Art Gallery, London and the West Midlands Minorities Arts Service and a member of The Blk Art Group.



Steve Trow

Councillor, Sandwell Council

Steve Trow has almost 40 years experience in arts and cultural development, principally in the West Midlands region. Beginning as a founder of the community arts movement in the 1970s, he is now an elected Member of Sandwell Council. In the years between, Trow has worked as a practitioner, officer and consultant – as founder of Jubilee Arts, as a regional arts funding officer, as a Principal Arts Officer both for Sandwell and for Birmingham Councils, and as Executive Director of Culture WM, the regional cultural consortium. Among many consultancy commissions, Trow has worked on cultural policy development and arts funding bids at local, regional and national levels – for the Arts Council, the BFI, local authorities, arts organisations and the Black Country Consortium. Trow remains especially committed to winning a fairer share of cultural opportunities for the people and communities of the West Midlands and in particular for those of the Black Country.



Jonathan Vickery

University of Warwick

Jonathan Vickery is Associate Professor in the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, at the University of Warwick. He has been a Henry Moore post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Essex and a Lecturer in Contemporary Art at the University of Warwick. With a background in contemporary art and design he has taught art, aesthetics, photography, architecture, design, management and organisation studies. Vickery has published research in art theory, urban and cultural policy, regeneration and cities. Vickery was a co-editor of the journal Aesthesis and is now Chair of the international Art of Management and Organization. He is Director of the new masters program in Arts, Enterprise and Development. His most recent publication is (with Ian King) Experiencing Organisations (Libri: Oxon).


Gavin Wade

Director, Eastside Projects

Gavin Wade is Director of Eastside Projects, Birmingham, an artist-curator and publisher of Strategic Questions. In 2010 he was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund Award for exceptional cultural entrepreneurs. His curated solo exhibitions include Cao Fei, Mike Nelson, Yangjiang Group, William Pope.L, Dan Graham, Carey Young, Liam Gillick, Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan, Nathan Coley and Bas Jan Ader. Curated projects include: Painting Show, Eastside Projects (2011-12), Public Structures, Guangzhou Triennial, China (2005) and In the Midst of Things, Bournville (1999). Books include UPCYCLE THIS BOOK Sternberg (2014), Has Man A Function In Universe? Book Works (2008) and his novel The Interruptors, Article Press (2005).  



Jonathan Watkins

Director, Ikon

Jonathan Watkins has been Director of Ikon since 1999.  Previously he worked for a number of years in London, as Director of Chisenhale Gallery (1990-1995) and Curator of Serpentine Gallery (1995-1997). Watkins has curated a number of large international exhibitions including the Biennale of Sydney (1998), Quotidiana, Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1999), Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art, Hayward Gallery, London (2001), Tate Triennial (2003), Shanghai Biennale (2006), Sharjah Biennial (2007), Negotiations, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2010) and the Guangzhou Triennial (2012). He was on the curatorial team for Europarte, Venice Biennale (1997), Milano Europa 2000, Palazzo di Triennale, Milan (2000), and Riwaq, Palestinian Biennial (2007). Watkins recently curated the Iraqi Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2013. Watkins has written extensively on contemporary art. Recent essays by him have focused on the work of Giuseppe Penone, Martin Creed, Semyon Faibisovich, Yang Zhenzhong, Noguchi Rika, Caro Niederer, Beat Streuli and Cornelia Parker. He was the author of the Phaidon monograph on Japanese artist On Kawara (2002).