Q&A with Alistair Hudson

Simon Stephens, 29.07.2014
Challenges facing the new director of Mima
Alistair Hudson is the new director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (Mima). He is currently the deputy director at Grizedale Arts in Coniston, Cumbria.

Hudson replaces Mark Robinson, who became interim director following the departure of Kate Brindley, who left earlier this year to join the Arnolfini Centre for the Contemporary Arts in Bristol.

Mima becomes part of Teesside University in August, which was announced last year as part of cost-cutting measures by Middlesbrough Council.

What attracted you to the job at Mima?

If I think of all the major visual art institutions in the UK right now, Mima has the most potential to try something new.

There are a particular set of circumstances that add up to a very interesting opportunity: it's already beginning a period of transition; it's on a scale that's not too large to have a close relationship with its constituencies and then there is the new relationship with Teesside University.

If you bring these key factors together, within all the dynamics of Middlesbrough's social and economic situation, it really could open up as a place for experiment, to try all the things we talk about in the arts sector, but perhaps don't do because there are normally too many established systems locked into place.

What do you think the main challenges will be?

Taking on a new role is always a challenge, but a good challenge. Our inherited museums have been built on the conceptual architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The ambition is to use Mima to really test out other ways of working, to look at other modes of behaviour for the institution and its publics. We're talking here about changing the way people use art and museums, about moving away from the object/spectator visitor model to a mass usership model – the museum 3.0 – that's the biggest challenge of all and one I am really looking forward to.

How will becoming part of Teesside University change the way Mima works?

The transfer of Mima into Teesside University strengthens a partnership which has developed strongly in recent years and plans are already in place for ambitious exhibitions with international and regionally based artists.

The partnership will draw on the expertise and combined excellence of Mima and Teesside University to create new routes into education and creative employment.

It will build on Mima’s incredible success as an international gallery and will ensure it thrives and continues to offer a fantastic cultural experience for the widest range of audiences.

I'm a firm believer in art as process and art as education – a means to effect change and development in society by reconnecting the modern concept of the institute with its history in adult education and education for all.

How will your experience at Grizedale help you?

Over the past 10 years at Grizedale we have been developing a new methodology and philosophy based on the principle of art as useful tool (with a significant debt to past Coniston resident John Ruskin).

This has totally transformed the way the organisation and the art it produces is valued by the community around it.

Equally, this approach has gained the interest of the international art world and we have managed to build up a network of museums, artists and thinkers who are seriously looking at creating a new operating system for art and its institutions in the emerging century. At Mima there is the chance to extend this work and do something that is really significant.