UNFOLD - LEEDS VISUAL ARTS
In 2015 Leeds Art Gallery hosted the British Art Show, welcoming the prestigious touring show, which surveys the most inspiring contemporary visual artists of the time, back to the city more than 20 years after it was first hosted in Leeds.
The show would bring the nation’s artists, critics, curators and media to the city as the opening venue for a show that would go on to tour the length and breadth of the country, providing a unique and unprecedented opportunity to unite the visual arts community in the city, raise the profile of the Leeds arts sector and create a celebration of visual arts in a city where performing arts has often dominated.
The British Art Show brand is closely guarded and restricted for use only associated with the official show itself, the narrative of the British Art Show brand was national and focused solely on the artists in the show therefore providing very limited opportunity to tell the story of the Leeds arts scene. In addition the target audience for British Art Show was very firmly within the arts community and offered limited scope to engage with the wider Leeds public.
I devised Unfold, a month-long festival and associated identity that would enable the city to profile the visual arts organisations and artists making Leeds their home, to celebrate its rich history and heritage in sculpture and visual arts and introduce new audiences to the arts. The aim was to use Unfold as a spring board to bring together a disparate visual arts community and to piggy-back on the buzz and excitement created by the British Art Show, positioning Leeds as an arts-led city and giving audiences at home and away a reason to look again at Leeds, not just for the duration of the show but to also consider the arts and culture unfolding in all corners of the city every day.
Crucially in terms of visibility and profile the Unfold festival secured funding for two new public art commissions: Windows of Leeds and George Street Mural. Alongside these permanent commissions I worked with Project 53 to create a short guide that told the story of artists and organisations programming exhibitions and workshops all year round, the unique DNA of the visual arts sector in Leeds which ranges from high-end contemporary gallery spaces to a socially driven DIY scene and a radical voice for accessibility across visual arts, and for the first time created a map to demonstrate the geographical spread and diversity of the visual arts in Leeds.
The festival was supported with outdoor advertising, a social media campaign in which guest editors from the sector curated the content, and a series of industry networking events to bring the sector together. Over the course of the three month festival and duration of the British Art Show in Leeds the programme raised the profile of visual arts in Leeds gaining local and national media coverage, bringing together the sector to self-organise future iterations of the map and guide and ensuring that the local story of the city was told alongside a major touring exhibition.