UWE Arts Research Fellow wins £300k creative award

Issue date: 26 May 2009

Phil Collins, the louder you scream, the faster we go, 2005 (Situations/Bristol City Council) Claire Doherty, Director of Situations, an arts commissioning and research programme based at the University of the West of England, Bristol has been awarded a £300,000 prestigious Paul Hamlyn Breakthrough Fund grant for outstanding creative producers.

The Fund, set up in 2008, is for individuals with a pressing and persuasive vision who are determined to do something differently and make a difference to the cultural landscape in which they work. Cultural entrepreneurs may appear in a range of roles and with various titles – producers, artistic or executive directors, curators, chief executives – but they each possess a pressing and persuasive vision, a drive and a strong track record of making things happen. The Fund was established to support exceptional cultural entrepreneurs at a critical point in their careers in the UK.

Claire Doherty has been awarded the highest award, £300,000, of all five national award winners to expand the Situations team and to commission a series of ground-breaking, internationally significant commissions over the next three years.

Having previously worked as a curator at IKON Gallery (Birmingham), Spike Island (Bristol) and FACT (Liverpool), Claire Doherty set up Situations at UWE in 2003 as an international research and contemporary art commissioning programme.

Claire says, “This grant will be profoundly transformational for me and couldn't come at a better moment for the development of Situations. I've spent the past six years conceiving and developing a University-based commissioning agency, endeavouring to do things differently, to open up new and surprising encounters with the work of contemporary artists in unexpected places. This grant means that I am no longer alone, but can embark upon a new series of ambitious temporary public art commissions with an expanded staff, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to pursue that bold and ambitious vision for Situations.”

Situations commissions and produces artworks outside conventional gallery or museum contexts, often occurring in unexpected places or encouraging new forms of engagement with our surroundings. Situations takes the ways in which artists respond to specific contexts and locations as its central concern. http://www.situations.org.uk

One example of this successful commissioning by Situations was a large-scale artwork by Heather and Ivan Morison featuring a jack-knifed articulated lorry with thousands of flowers tumbling out of it which appeared in the centre of Bristol in July on the morning of 14 July 2006*.

Professor Paul Gough, Dean of the Faculty of Creative Arts, says “Claire is one of the leading creative entrepreneurs at work today; this important award is a timely recognition of her work on an international stage and is a credit to her teams' innovative approach to major arts projects.”

Commissioners of contemporary art play a key role in spearheading the development of new artworks, using their knowledge of new and emerging fields of art to nurture and support the processes through which works will come to fruition. They have to be location managers, fundraisers, critics, publicists, writers, production managers, and passionate ambassadors for the work of artists often in unfamiliar environments.

Having largely raised funding on a project-by-project basis to date, the Breakthrough Fund grant will enable Claire Doherty to recruit a part-time Project Manager and to initiate and develop a cumulative series of international commissions which will explore the idea of interruption.

Before gaining the Award Claire went through a selection process lasting several months, after being nominated as one of 50 individuals across the arts in the UK. She submitted a proposal to use the grant to expand and develop the Situations programme at UWE.

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