Naome Glanville is an Arts and Culture Co-ordinator at the University of Exeter. As part of the Arts and Culture team, she looks after the university’s fine art collection and supports arts and culture projects and activities. Naome also writes articles for the Arts and Culture website, uses the fine art collection to support art history study and advises staff and students in planning exhibitions.
To begin, can you elaborate on the importance of art commissions for the University?
The main aim of the University’s Arts and Culture strategy is to activate creativity, which involves supporting and the sharing of creativity both within and outside the University. We invite commissioned artists to make connections with research and researchers to inform their work and develop their practices, as well as invite researchers and academics to discover new perspectives to their work through interactions with creative practitioners. This potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas can enrich learning and impact for both parties.
The University of Exeter is an institute that values the arts, and the outputs of our arts commissions have been exciting and thought-provoking. They have ranged from exhibitions, soundscapes, movement with virtual reality headsets, to poetry and films. The commissions have supported the artistic community and increased opportunities for networking and learning.
Can you give an overview of the University’s Fine Art collection?
The University’s Fine Art collection consists of around two thousand items, including sculptures, paintings and prints. It includes works by Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost, Bridget Riley, Newlyn artist Harold Harvey and a large number of 19thcentury engravings of JMW Turner works. Working with the collection means not only acquiring artworks but also caring for them. We have just developed a new policy for the development of the collection, so that we manage the collection in a more consistent, transparent and strategic way.
What is on display on campus and where can the collection be accessed online?
You may be aware of our sculpture walk on the Streatham Campus.
Figure, 1964 by Barbara Hepworth.
Credit: Barbara Hepworth ©Bowness, Photo: Courtesy University of Exeter ©John Melville
Although currently closed to the public, we look forward to a time when it will be safe for the public to tour the sculpture walk once again. On our website www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk you can see images of all the sculptures in the walk, read about the works and download a map showing where the sculptures are. Many of the sculptures date from the 1960s and 1970s and complement the architecture of the University buildings. Each month we are shining a spotlight on one of our artworks from the collection on the Arts and Culture website, so look out for that.
Can you tell me about Arts and Culture’s current art commissions?
The current arts commission is an 18-month partnership project with University partner the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), called Here’s to Thee. The project seeks to uncover the complex ecology and cultures that surround the art of cider making. This fascinating project is being led by internationally renowned artist Simon Pope, who is collaborating with a team of creative practitioners and also academics at the University of Exeter. The project includes the display at RAMM of a wonderful ‘Wassail bowl’ made of local clay by ceramicist Abigail North. You can see more about Here’s to Thee and check out Simon’s video diaries here.
The In Company of Insects project looked really interesting, can you tell me about it?
In the Company of Insects was an 18-month project with award-winning poet Fiona Benson. Alongside sound artist Mair Bosworth, Benson recorded insect sounds and interviewed entomologists from the University of Exeter and beyond, who were able to shed light on the curious lifecycles and habits of insects. These were all drawn together with poems specially written by Fiona, to make a set of amazing, immersive soundscapes, that you can listen to on the Arts and Culture website. The project then reached out for more insect-related poetry through workshops. Poems composed by members of the public, school children and other poets were recorded and can be heard on the Arts and Culture website.
How have art commissions and projects been implicated by the pandemic?
The pandemic has of course affected the way our work has had to be conducted. Very soon after the first lockdown Arts and Culture initiated a series of 10 micro-commissions in partnership with other city arts organisations, entitled Hyperlocal which invited artists from Devon and Cornwall to create a digital artwork exploring the hyperlocal of their immediate domestic environments. After a public-call out, the 10 selected artists created very different responses to the confined world they found themselves in, including poems, illustrations, soundscapes and films. I am sure that they will be fascinating to revisit in years to come, as a record of life in lockdown.