It has been frequently claimed that Liverpool is the most significant UK centre for art outside of London. The 'Artists' City' project at LJMU's Liverpool School of Art and Design (LSAD) was designed to nurture emerging and early career artists from a range of disciplines to further strengthen Liverpool's creative communities.
The ambition of much research at LSAD is to connect the practical activity of art-making to the critical and creative networks in the city. It does this via a diverse range of activities including critical writing, workshops, events, exhibition programmes and critical reviews of the history of art within the civic life of the city. Supported by the Arts Council England, Artists’ City combines theoretical and historically positioned research to connect these activities.
The research for Artists’ City has involved substantial engagement with public-facing organisations on Merseyside including the Bluecoat, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), and Liverpool Biennial. These are organisations with which LSAD shares a strategic aim of championing the value of cultural and creative capital in and from Liverpool. Together, common strategies have been developed and initiatives to improve the environment for artists co-created. For example, working with the artist-led organisation The Royal Standard, emerging artists have been provided with studio space and encouraged to connect to other organisations in the city.
LSAD is an important plate in the tectonics of the city’s artistic and cultural renaissance.
The research has substantially improved the city’s exhibition offer. Artists’ City has developed gallery spaces for new and emerging artists. As part of the Liverpool Biennial in 2010, the LSAD staff created an accessible cultural and educational hub for artists and the public to come together to create and experience art. In addition, the Site Gallery (founded in 2007, in collaboration with Liverpool Biennial) offered locally-based artists their first opportunity to exhibit.
Research conducted as part of LSAD’s Exhibition Research Lab has supported established, overlooked and emerging practitioners, whether artists or curators. Since its creation in 2012, the Lab has curated four exhibitions, each drawing around 300 visitors and its website averages 500 hits per month. Tate Liverpool’s Research Centre and the Exhibition Research Lab have developed a monthly seminar series aimed at examining Liverpool as host and generator of cultural activity.
[LASD activities] have contributed to a lively contextual environment for local visual arts practitioners.
Recognition of emerging talent is another key aspect of LSAD and the future of Artist’s City. LJMU and Shanghai University launched the John Moores Critics Award, which distinguishes individuals in the UK and China with aptitude in critical writing about contemporary art. The Liverpool Art Prize (with artistic laboratory, Metal, and supported by the Arts Council) recognises skill and enterprise of artists born or based in the Liverpool city-region.
As a result of this partnership work with LSAD emerging artists are now connecting with and contributing to Liverpool’s visual arts scene much more effectively.