There are many things which have happened in the past year at Iniva which are not visible to the naked eye. These are the things that make a difference to an organisation that’s undergoing a transformation. Some of those things are the ‘behind the scenes stuff’ that help the machine to crank into action everyday. The conversations with artists and curators. The conversations with trustees and the Iniva team. The conversations with partners and potential partners.
The thing that has got me determinedly out of bed every morning has been wanting to affirm the importance of artists, and the crucial role that Iniva plays in the development of their practices, now, in the past, and in the future. And part of that development is the way in which we can help create a critical context and achieve greater engagement with audiences. Thinking this through has been especially needed whilst Iniva undergoes a significant series of changes to the way we will programme and function.
This year has been one of trial and experimentation Melanie Keen
Even before I was appointed, I had to imagine myself running Iniva. My two-stage interview, which included representatives from Iniva’s board, Arts Council England and the Supporters of Iniva, gave me the opportunity to test out my vision for the organisation. I understood that the incipient Iniva could be not be disentangled from the Iniva established in 1994, and the idea of working as agency or ‘a gallery without walls’ was part of its DNA. The difference now, and the thing which makes us unique as a visual arts organisation, is the vastly expanded Stuart Hall Library, a significant resource that anchors us to a physical and intellectual space giving context to much of our work. Established when Iniva was formed 22 years ago, the library harnesses the space of ‘the international’ in ways that are more apposite for today’s nimbler, leaner incarnation of Iniva.
In October 2015, we secured funding from Arts Council Collection which ensured that Keith Piper’s new work would be commissioned and become part of a national collection to commemorate its 70th anniversary. Our partnership with the Bluecoat in Liverpool heralds the beginning of a major touring exhibition for Keith and points to our recognition of the differing types of support artists need at different stages in their career. Keith’s importance as a pioneer of digital technologies in Britain, and as a key British artist who has influenced a generation of younger artists, cannot be understated.
Towards the end of the year, we awarded bursaries to a group of early career artists, curators and scholars to attend a conference, Artist and Empire at Tate Britain. The recipients made insightful and provocative contributions to the conversations that took place at the conference. This was followed up with a roundtable in the Stuart Hall Library to debate ideas around exhibition histories and imperialism, amongst others.
In January 2016, we realised our first artist in school residency that specifically used our Emotional Learning Cards with partners A Space and Oppossum Federation. An artist working alongside an art therapist in a classroom setting makes this residency distinct. Drawing connections between artists’ practice, visual literacy and wellbeing continues to be an important part of our work with children and young people