Arts organisations awarded £1.27m to tackle racial inequality

Freelands Foundation says successful organisations are removing barriers to access through anti-racist education
Art Diversity Racism
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Rebecca Atkinson
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New Art Exchange, Creating Connections, 2020. Photo: Tom Morley
New Art Exchange, Creating Connections, 2020. Photo: Tom Morley

The New Art Exchange in Nottingham and Iniva in London are among three arts organisations to have been awarded £1.27m to promote racial inclusion and tackle inequality.

The awards are the first round of grants from arts education funder the Freelands Foundation, which eventually aims to invest £3m in this area. It has also pledged to commit 15% of all future grants to initiatives with specific targets to promote the involvement of black and ethnic minorities in the visual arts, and further plans to commission public research examining black and ethnic minority access to visual arts.

New Art Exchange, which is dedicated to culturally diverse contemporary visual arts, will receive £500,000 over three years to launch its Power to Change programme, working with young people and adults to support community empowerment and talent development. The organisation will take an intergenerational, participant-led approach to offer a vital resource for individuals facing various forms of social and economic disadvantage.

Iniva,  a visual arts organisation dedicated to developing an artistic programme that reflects on the social and political impact of globalisation, will also receive £500,000 to transform its learning programme, centred around the invigoration of the Stuart Hall Library, a unique collection of books, artist and curatorial archives of Black British Arts movements.

It will run a UK-wide programme of learning, community engagement, events, residencies and digitalisation to challenge conventional notions of diversity and difference. And its Birmingham-based schools' partnership will be expanded, to amplify pupil voices through art-making and community engagement.

A further arts organisation, Create London, will receive £270,000 over two years as part of the funding round to deliver an education and engagement programme celebrating the Windrush Generation with schools and community groups in partnership with Hackney Council, to complement  the borough’s two new major public artworks by Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan.

Elisabeth Murdoch, the founder and chair of the Freelands Foundation, said: “To achieve a cultural sector that truly reflects the richness and diversity of 21st-century Britain, we must address the unacceptable exclusion of black and ethnic minority voices from the visual arts.

“The support we’ve announced today for Iniva, New Art Exchange and Create - three organisations already doing important work to remove barriers to access through anti-racist education - is just the start.”

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Murdoch also announced that Sonita Alleyne – a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and the Radio Academy, former BBC Trustee, and currently Master of Jesus College in Cambridge – to chair a new Diversity Action Group of high-profile black and ethnic minority academics, artists, educators and curators.

The group will oversee an ambitious programme that incorporates funding, new partnerships and research. In her role as chair, Alleyne will also join the Freelands Foundation’s main advisory committee.

“The visual arts are central not only to our cultural and creative sectors, but our wider social fabric,” she said. “And yet for huge numbers of black and ethnic minority people in the UK, the visual arts are a closed world from which they feel excluded, both as a pastime or a possible career.

“This has to change, and I look forward to working with Freelands Foundation and our new Diversity Action Group of artists and experts. Together, we will take a frank look at where the barriers to the visual arts lie, and identify how to open access to the pleasures and opportunities of a creative life.”

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