Our curatorial research for 2013 explored themes of Work & Play and was the broad theme of our programme for that year. The stimulus being the current Dundas site, in the centre of Middlesbrough.
In late 2011 the office block – Dundas House, was made available to Navigator North through a partnership with East Street Arts through their InSitu programme. InSitu utilises ‘meanwhile’ spaces to support artists in developing their creative practice. Dundas House currently houses project, exhibition and events spaces, as well as artists’ studios and was the main site for the Work & Play programme.
The Dundas site was previously home to the towns Winter Gardens, founded by Lady Florence Bell in 1907, as an attempt to tackle one of the social problems which worried the Edwardian middle classes – the ‘improvident use of leisure time, by working class people’. The Winter Gardens stood on this site up until 1963, to then be replaced with a shopping arcade, car park and office block. The latter of which BT operated from until it became vacant and stood empty from 2006.
Through our programme, artists and audiences were asked to consider what Work & Play means to them, whether they made a direct connection to site and the associated social or work-related history of that site, or a broader more abstract interpretation. To read writer Emma Osbourn’s review of Work & Play on the a-n, The Artists Information Company website click here.
We have an ongoing interest in the use of space, and how space can hold the resonance of social and work related activity of the past and present. The use of ‘non-arts’ spaces is of particular interest to us, both in terms of project, exhibition and event space.
We realise the importance of audiences within any programme which includes exhibitions and events, and seek to engage with those who might not normally engage with artists or their work. We do this by using non-arts spaces, increasing the opportunity for audiences to ‘encounter’ work.
Work & Play included a series of artist-led events, artist residencies, exhibitions and workshops. Artists working across Tees Valley were supported in developing their practice through a small grants scheme, enabling them to realise specific projects or explore ideas relating to Work & Play. The programme included Artist Development, Professional Development Sessions, a Darlington Artist Residency and the development of an AV space.