Art Fund announces over £2m in new funding opportunities

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Art Fund announces over £2m in new funding opportunities
Kehinde Wiley, Portrait of Melissa Thompson, 2020, V&A East, Art Funded 2021.

LONDON.- The UK’s national charity for art, Art Fund, has today revealed the breadth of its support for museums, galleries and historic houses over the last year alongside announcing millions of pounds in funding for future museum projects.

Art Fund’s Annual Report shows grants totalling £5.8m were given across its programmes in 2021, made possible by the continuing generosity of its 130,000 members who buy the National Art Pass and by the generosity of trusts, foundations and donors. By the end of 2022, the charity will have given over £6m in Covid-19 response funding.

This summer the charity opens funding schemes for applications totalling over £2m, available through its Reimagine grants and the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. It will also celebrate the creativity and resilience of museums through its annual Art Fund Museum of the Year £100,000 prize, to be announced on 14 July.
Art Fund’s grant-giving is informed by its in-depth research amongst museums, including its recently published annual research into the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.

The latest results showed an upwards trend in terms of income and visitors to UK museums, with both steadily returning – at 68% and 61% of pre-pandemic levels respectively. They also reveal that emergency funding was essential to supporting the sector, with 84% of all organisations accessing emergency or recovery support.

Museums are also reporting that re-engaging audiences is an urgent priority, with schools and young people at the top of this list. Art Fund’s Energise Young Minds fundraising campaign has so far raised £1m for connecting museums with these audiences, combating the worrying trend of reduced access for young people to the UK’s rich cultural heritage.

New grants available

Art Fund’s Reimagine grants are designed to inspire creativity and increase stability in the sector as it navigates the next phase of recovery from the pandemic. From 4 July – 12 September, arts organisations will be eligible to apply for support of between £10,000 to £50,000 for projects that help organisations reimagine their approach to engagement - with audiences and communities, but also with their collections, resources and workforce. Art Fund will continue its partnership with Museum Development UK (MDUK) who will distribute £200,000 of the £2m available. Small- to medium-sized museums across the UK will benefit from a combination of reset grants and resilience programmes. The collaboration enables Art Fund to maximise the reach and impact of its funding across the four nations.

The Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund enables museums to borrow important works from major lending museums and galleries. The scheme has dramatically boosted visitor numbers to smaller institutions and has significantly widened the lending pool of objects from major collections, through funding costs such as transportation, conservation and training. Ambitious, exciting and high-profile loan projects that have the potential to be genuinely transformative for the borrowing museum or gallery are particularly encouraged. Applications open at the end of June until 12 August.

Director of Art Fund Jenny Waldman says “Our latest annual report shows Art Fund’s breadth and depth of support for a rapidly evolving museum sector. Our vision for the next five years builds on our 119-year history of building public collections, connecting it with our burgeoning role helping to build and broaden audiences and amplify the work of more than 800 museums across the UK. Thanks to the generosity of Art Fund’s members, who buy the National Art Pass, and supporters we have been able to step up to help museums through the challenges of the pandemic and into an exciting future”.

Previous support

Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan programme has awarded nearly £1 million across 65 organisations since it began in 2017. Hundreds of works have been lent including by William Hogarth, Laura Knight, and Peter Paul Rubens, as well as treasures such as the 12th-century Becket Casket.
Eight exhibitions supported through the scheme are currently open in museums across the country including: Brought to Light - The Remarkable Bateman Collection at Weston Park Museum, The Partridge Family at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon and Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscapes that Inspired a Writer across four museums in Dorset and Wiltshire.

Art Fund has also already distributed £2 million through the Reimagine programme since it was introduced in 2021. Funded projects include bringing the collections and history of the Highlands to young people and schools in Scotland through a digital hub; an exhibition and learning events programme celebrating 70 years of ceramics and showcasing the work of Black women artists at Two Temple Place in London; and g39’s exploration of how socio-economic inequality prevents some from engaging with the visual arts in Wales, and testing ways to overcome this.

2021 in review

£3.3m was committed over the past year towards acquisitions, with helping to grow and develop the UK’s collections remaining an essential aspect of Art Fund’s mission. Over 290 objects and works of art joined collections across the country, with acquisitions highlights in 2021 including Portrait of Charles William Lambton (1825), famously known as ‘The Red Boy’, by Thomas Lawrence, now owned by the National Gallery; Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Adelaide (2014), a stained-glass panel depicting a Black man in the pose of a medieval female saint, which joined the Stained Glass Museum in Ely; National Museum Wales acquired Anna Boghiguian’s installation A Meteor Fell from the Sky (2018), which explores connections between Port Talbot’s Tata Steelworks and Tata’s steelworks in India; and the Burrell Collection in Glasgow acquired its first sculpture by a woman artist, the powerful L’Implorante (1905) by Camille Claudel.
Art Fund is also helping fund more commissions, empowering museums to support new work from contemporary artists, for example Sutapa Biswas’s acclaimed film Lumen (2021) and the Jerwood Art Fund Makers Open which commissioned five artists whose work is being toured nationally to Penzance and Aberdeen. A new funding partnership with the Freelands Foundation, the Freelands Art Fund Acquisition, will help museums acquire contemporary art and increase access to work by women artists in the UK.

Art Fund has also continued its support for museum professionals. In 2021 Headley Fellowships provided 11 curators with the means to study their collections – which range from the Museum of Cornish Life to the Scottish Crannog Centre – in depth. Curators increased their knowledge and expertise through Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants, with 27 recipients undertaking research trips nationally and internationally.
The Ryedale Roman hoard was acquired by the Yorkshire Museum following research conducted through a New Collecting Award. Current recipients of this scheme include curators at the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney, which will establish a new body of artist films, and the V&A in London, where research and new collecting aims to improve the visibility of transgender and non-binary identities in the collection.

Art Fund’s free fundraising platform designed specifically for museum crowdfunding campaigns, Art Happens, enabled museums to successfully raise over £114,000 to bring exciting projects to life across the UK. Over 220 museums are now using Art Tickets, Art Fund’s free ticketing system that saves venues time and money, helps them reach new audiences – and proved essential when advance booking was necessary.

Student Opportunities provided hard-to-acquire paid professional experience and ways into the sector for aspiring curators, such as four curatorial assistant roles created by the Women’s Art Collection at the University of Cambridge. The charity also gave in-kind support to the Jerwood Arts Curatorial Accelerator programme, a 12-month pilot designed to address socio-economic diversity in curatorship, mentoring a group of early career practitioners.

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