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Museums across the UK secure Reimagine grants to support their future and communities

Today we announce the 22 museums, galleries and networks to benefit from the first round of 'Reimagine' grants, which aim to increase creativity and stability in the museum sector.

Today Art Fund is announcing the 22 UK museums, galleries, historic houses, trusts and professional networks that will receive a total of £658,331 to transform their activities as they navigate the next phase of recovery from the pandemic. 

The first round of £2 million Reimagine grants for 2021 will support a diverse range of institutions located across Britain, from the Isle of Bute in Scotland to Caernarfon in Wales, to Launceston in Cornwall and to Ushaw Moor in County Durham – helping them to build expertise, capacity and connections within and beyond the sector.

This round of Reimagine grants is supporting a wide range of projects, including an exhibition of 70 years of ceramics by women of colour from West Africa through the diaspora to the UK at Two Temple Place in London; an exploration of the human history of the Clifton Suspension Bridge with couples from all over the world who’ve chosen the bridge as the ideal spot to get engaged; and a community quilt-making project at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute.

A number of grants from this round will help museums to engage families, schools and young people, including a creative writing project at the Charles Causley Trust in Cornwall, an online children’s exhibition at Vindolanda fort in Hexham in partnership with Newcastle University and Creative Assembly, and a project to digitise the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum collection.

Expertise will be deepened through several major projects: National Museums Liverpool will lead a new national network to share current discourse and create a narrative thread to fully represent slavery and its legacies in the UK; and Screen South/Accentuate will explore new co-production methodologies with Disability Heritage Co-production Groups to reinterpret collections through a disability lens. CVAN will support the sector to address systemic issues of inequality, decarbonisation and relevance. Project Art Works, a collective of neurodivergent artists and activists recently nominated for the Turner Prize, will expand its programmes raising awareness in the cultural and care sectors.

The resonance of place for different communities will also be explored. In partnership with the Royal Parks and Mayesbrook Park School, RIBA is marking the centenary of the Becontree Estate in East London, once the UK’s largest social housing estate. Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, once a centre for medieval contemplation and spirituality, will revisit its Augustinian roots to provide a 21st-century place for wellbeing and mindfulness.

Art Fund’s director Jenny Waldman said, 'Art Fund’s new Reimagine grants will allow many more museums to understand, and work more deeply with, their communities. Museums often produce what seem like miracles on a shoestring, but they need enhanced resources – such as in digital, specialist support and staffing – to truly build for the future. We are proud to support these impressive projects, something we could not have done without the exceptional generosity of our members and donors.'

The second round of Reimagine grants will be announced in November. The deadline for submissions for the third and final round of 2021 Reimagine grants is 11 October and these will be announced in December.

Organisations are able to apply for support of between £5,000 and £50,000. 71 applications were received in this first round with a total ask of £1.9 million, demonstrating the continued level of need in the sector.

The 22 supported projects are:

Nottingham Contemporary, 'Caption Conscious Ecologies': an ambitious research and commissioning initiative that will produce a new caption-conscious moving-image commission and an access toolkit.

Redbridge Museum, ‘Reimagining Redbridge Museum’: The project will create a temporary exhibition space within the redeveloped permanent Redbridge Museum local history exhibition which reopens in summer 2022.

The Charles Causley Trust, ‘Expanding our Visual Arts Offer: Communities, Networks and Young People’: this will produce an artistic commission and residency at Charles Causley’s house with a series of engagements with young people which draw inspiration from the writing and locations of Charles Causley’s Launceston.

National Museums Liverpool, ‘Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums Forum’: Led by National Museums Liverpool in partnership with Museum of London, Black Cultural Archives, Bristol Culture, Hull Museums and Glasgow Museums, the Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies in Museums Forum, this national network will share current discourse and create a narrative thread to fully represent slavery and its legacies in the UK.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, 'The Union': This is a new initiative to celebrate the symbiotic relationship between the bridge and the people for whom it means so much. Couples from all over the world choose the Clifton Suspension Bridge as the ideal spot to pop the question. This project, in collaboration with artist Emily Sorrell, invites couples to become members of The Union to honour their contribution to the landmark’s human history.

Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, 'Engaging Neighbourhoods': Six Calderdale groups will work with artists to interpret a shared theme, exploring relationships with the local and global environment, culminating in a public sharing of the work.

RIBA, 'Becontree Centenary Reimagined': In partnership with the Royal Parks and Mayesbrook Park School, RIBA will mark the centenary of the Becontree Estate in East London with new in-gallery and public realm artistic and architectural commissions, events and learning programmes, engaging local residents and national audiences with the stories of the UK’s largest social housing estate.

Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, 'Impressions of a Welsh Regiment‘: This project will digitise the museum's collections to improve access, providing a valuable resource for a variety of activities including outreach to schools, community groups and harder to reach audiences.

Mount Stuart Trust, 'Stitching Recovery': Mount Stuart Trust proposes to work with creative partnership Arrange Whatever Pieces Come Your Way (Sheelagh Boyce and Annabelle Harty) on a community quilt-making project and exhibition.

Screen South/Accentuate, ‘Reimagining Disability Collections’: In partnership with nine museums (Museum of Liverpool; Black Country Living Museum; Thackray Museum of Medicine; National Railway Museum; The Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean Museums; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Hastings Museum and Historic Dockyard Chatham), this project will explore new co-production methodologies with Disability Heritage Co-production Groups of D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people, seeking to reimagine and reinterpret collections through a disability lens.

Ely Museum, ‘People and Place: Engaging East Cambridgeshire’: This project will deliver reimagined audience engagement activities to the communities of East Cambridgeshire. A creative project in collaboration with a local secondary school will produce a work to be displayed at the museum. There will be family sessions at weekends and during the school holidays. Sessions for under-5s each month will encourage young families to feel at home in the museum.

CVAN, ‘Fair and Equitable Practice’: This project wants to reposition the Contemporary Visual Arts Network for England (CVAN) to strengthen the sector nationally. CVAN will support the sector to address systemic issues of inequality, decarbonisation and relevance through an alliance and collective development. It will present a national professional development programme aimed at the visual art sector that will reflect the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Project Art Works, ‘Creative Pathways for Neurodivergent Artists’: Project Art Works is a collective of neurodivergent artists and activists who have this year been nominated for the Turner Prize. Its programmes want to raise awareness in the cultural and care sectors, promoting more diverse representation in programming and relevancy for audiences. The Reimagine grant will support the development of this work.

Two Temple Place, 'Exhibition 2022: Body, Vessel, Clay': Two Temple Place will stage its 10th annual exhibition, Body Vessel Clay, spanning 70 years of ceramics, celebrating work by women of colour from West Africa through the diaspora to the UK.

Ushaw Historic House, ‘The Hidden Treasures of Ushaw’: This project will explore new technologies to share collections digitally to welcome a wider variety of people. An interactive outdoor adventure trail with the museum’s contents will support new audiences to uncover the hidden stories and treasures at Ushaw. Augmented reality will bring the collections to life outdoors through a specially created app.

Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, ‘The Mindful Museum’: Once a centre for medieval contemplation and spirituality, Norton Priory will revisit its Augustinian roots to provide a 21st-century place for wellbeing and mindfulness, providing restful, imaginative and mindful activity to all.

Artlink Hull, '87 Gallery': 87 Gallery is a contemporary visual art gallery and artist space developed by Artlink Hull. With this Reimagine grant a 12-month programme of exhibitions and public engagement activities will be secured, and two key new gallery staff roles (Curator and Digital Engagement Producer) will be enabled

Block Universe, ‘Digital Engagement Strategy Development’: This grant will support Block Universe (BU) to reimagine its activities following the pandemic by creating and delivering a new digital engagement strategy. This will include a new website, targeted digital engagement programme, a new hybrid digital and live public programme, ‘Mutations’, in May 2022, and online earned income activities.

Society of Genealogists, ‘Reimagining how we work and engage with people’: In partnership with Imperial College and Socially Bright, leading-edge software will be developed to conserve and make unique family trees (called Pedigree Rolls) available to people in an engaging and virtual way.

Broadway Gallery and Studio, 'Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation': Funding will enable the recruitment of an Arts and Heritage Officer to deliver a community-driven cultural engagement programme.

Vindolanda Trust, ‘Digital Bibliographies’: The Vindolanda Trust will create an online children’s exhibition in partnership with Newcastle University and Creative Assembly.

The Story Museum, ‘Young Curators: Minecraft Museum’: In this co-curation project with young people aged 14-18, The Story Museum and participants will exchange skills in curation and narrative gaming, using the collection as inspiration to create a digital version of the Enchanted Library gallery, along with three new digital story realms in Minecraft.

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