Video recording of New Visions for art – a CVAC public lecture by Alistair Hudson (Director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) and Sarah Munro (Director of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead) – Durham Castle, 8 February, 2016. (1 hour)
Sarah Munro and Alistair Hudson are visionaries with a wealth of experience in cultural leadership gained in distinguished careers. Both were instrumental in the 2015 Turner Prize. Since his appointment in 2014 Alistair Hudson has transformed Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art into an institution dedicated to the promotion of art as a tool for education and social change. Sarah Munro became Director of BALTIC in November 2015 and there is an expectation that she will both re-energise the gallery and support the cultural infrastructure of the region as a whole with her passion and ambition.
On February 8th the Great Hall in Durham Castle was filled with over 200 people. The lecture attracted a diverse audience of students, academics, artists, and professionals from the cultural sector. Sarah Munro, BALTIC’s first woman director, used the opportunity to share her personal and professional background and to talk about how this has influenced her thinking. Her strong personal values are based on social justice and she is concerned, among other things, about the policies of the current government, about public services, vulnerable citizens and the environment. Sarah is exploring the concept of #OurBaltic: what does BALTIC mean for the artistic community, for local people living in Gateshead and Newcastle and for the international art world? She is currently writing a manifesto for BALTIC with her entire staff team, so it was too early for a ‘mission statement’, but it is clear that she will reboot BALTIC.
Alistair Hudson’s ideas have been widely disseminated. He is a member of the international movement Arte Util – http://www.arte-util.org/ – and aims to make mima a bigger part of people’s everyday lives. He believes that mima needs to evolve and adapt so that people think of the gallery as somewhere that they can use in the same ways that they make use of the library, the school and the health centre. He wants the gallery to be of value to the people who live on Teeside, as well as to people in the region, nationally and internationally. He supports bringing art into the world in many different ways, whether that is through housing, health-care or education, essentially applying it in every aspect of life, making it useful in society, contributing civically, getting involved in issues.
These are radical ideas about art: the idea of art contains within it many different modes of art, one is aesthetic, but a lot of art is about changing the world and in the UK this is under-represented. The role of the public gallery could be to help to support particular art practices and art that are not supported by the market, by private collectors. In the current political and financial climate it is important that public galleries demonstrate viability. Mima does not aim to show a panoramic survey of art practice, you will need to go elsewhere for that, but Alistair Hudson aims to develop a museum that is viable because it is useful and therefore should be funded. It will be interesting to see how BALTIC develops.
Hazel Donkin, March 2016