Two leading art institutions have been awarded £800,000 to address racial inequality in visual arts, which will allow 120 artists to collaborate with almost 30 museums and galleries across the country.
The Freelands Foundation has announced “unprecedented” long-term funding, part of a multimillion-pound commitment, to initiatives led by Wysing Arts Centre and the UAL Decolonising Arts Institute that will focus on amplifying and empowering black and Asian artists.
Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire will receive £500,000 for a 10-year artist development programme, known as the Syllabus. Every year, 10 artists from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds will undertake an ambitious programme delivered across a nationwide network of eight art organisations.
The groundbreaking partnership will provide a decade of support for artists from ethnic minority backgrounds, as well as those from low-income backgrounds, with additional access needs or without formal art education.
The programme will include mentoring, artistic development and peer networking delivered by artistic advisers and a dedicated curator.
UAL Decolonising Arts Institute will receive £300,000 toward its three-year 20/20 programme, which will allow 20 black and Asian artists to be placed in residence at top art organisations across the UK to produce new commissions for permanent collections. These permanent collections will “reshape the landscape of commissioning, collecting and exhibiting in Britain”.
The 20 partners include the Hepworth Wakefield, Box in Plymouth, MIMA in Middlesbrough, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, Sheffield Museums Trust, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
The awards to Wysing Art Centre and UAL Decolonising Art Institute have been made following a review of proposals by the Freelands Foundation Diversity Action Group. The panel is chaired by Sonita Alleyne, the first black female master of any Oxbridge college. Others on the panel include the artists John Akomfrah and Hardeep Pandhal; Sade Banks, founder of the charity Sour Lemons; and Melanie Keen, director of the Wellcome Collection.
Alleyne said: “The Diversity Action Group is committed to creating the conditions in which black and brown artists in the UK are able to thrive: removing barriers and creating pathways into the sector in order to transform the experiences of artists and audiences.
“These two new grants are a landmark in terms of our continuing commitment to addressing racial inequality throughout the visual arts.”
Rosie Cooper, director at Wysing Arts Centre, said: “The ambition and vision of Freelands Foundation in deciding to support Syllabus across 10 years is unprecedented and inspiring. It provides much-needed stability and significant growth for a programme that has already made a huge contribution to the sector. We are immensely grateful to the foundation for deciding to champion artists in this way, especially at this incredibly challenging time.”
Dr Susan Pui San Lok, director at UAL Decolonising Arts Institute, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support of Freelands Foundation in making UAL Decolonising Art Institute’s ‘20/20’ project possible. Following an extraordinary 18 months, ‘20/20’ is a response to urgent calls for artworld actions to follow words and gestures and move ‘Beyond the Black Square’.”
The funding follows the announcement of a landmark research commission into how black, Asian and minority ethnic students are excluded from art education. The study will be carried out by the Runnymede Trust and Freelands Foundation.