The Tees Valley has very definitely pinned itself to the nation’s cultural map if events of 2007 are anything to go by – as Joanne Welford discovered
IF you were asked the question what have Picasso, Rule Britannia, Andy Warhol and Journey South got in common, would you be able to give a sensible answer? Chances are, if you live in the Tees Valley, you would. For all of the above – and many more creative artists of international note – were to be found as part and parcel of the Tees Valley’s culture scene in 2007.
We’re talking, of course, about the spectacular Proms in the Park event broadcast live to the nation from Middlesbrough’s Centre Square in September and of the opening of the £14.2m modern art gallery mima in January.
Both events have proved a boon when it comes to reaping the benefits for the Tees Valley. And to the wider world, the two are creating a momentum that’s attracting visitors to the area and showcasing just what the Tees Valley has to offer.
Teesside isn’t resting on its laurels though. Another bid has already been sent to the head of BBC Proms to see if the broadcaster will consider bringing the event back to Middlesbrough next year.
And mima is continuing to forge ahead with innovative exhibitions and further investment.
Its fourth exhibition of the year opened recently, focusing on the Bauhaus period with its innovative design, architecture and concept.
Visitor numbers are up at the gallery which will celebrate its first anniversary in January.
Since it opened, the buildings and its contents have enjoyed a high profile.
Part of mima’s beauty is that works by internationally renowned creative artists including Picasso and Warhol have rubbed shoulders with pieces from local artists.
“I am really delighted with the reception mima has had,” says mima’s director Godfrey Worsdale.
“You always are aware that galleries and modern and creative art can be challenging and difficult as a subject anyway but the area has really warmed to it, we have had visitors in their tens of thousands. People are coming back again and again.
“We have been able to present works from Picasso and Damien Hirst, for example – major figures in the art world.”
Arts and culture in the Tees Valley, he says, and the regeneration of the area as a whole is gathering momentum through events including Proms in the Park and the exhibitions staged at the modern art gallery.
The gallery started out with an ambitious mindset – and is very firmly sticking to it.
“Since mima opened we have been in pretty much every national newspaper, magazine and on the TV,” he adds. “We have established partnerships with galleries in Europe and America too.”
It is great, he says, that the gallery is able to show local artists alongside some of the giants of modern art. None of those exhibited have given any negative feedback. In fact, mima has been praised for the exhibition space it gives to artists.
The new exhibition, Bauhaus 1919-1933, has already been described as the most significant Bauhaus exhibition in the UK for 30 years. The show includes works by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers and includes architectural models, design and furniture and is part of the North-East’s programme of world-class festival and events for 2007.
A selection of recordings from the early 20th century, Bauhaus Reviewed 1919-1933, are also being presented in mima’s Sound Space on the third floor roof terrace and goes deep into the myths surrounding the Bauhaus school and the artists it gave birth to.
And the gallery’s own collection is now set to grow further. Mima has been awarded £1m by the Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity. Mima, in partnership with The Drawing Centre, New York, has been awarded the cash to fund the creation of a collection of international contemporary art through the charity’s new scheme – Art Fund International.
The Art Fund launched the initiative to encourage a radical change in the scale and ambition of contemporary art collecting in the UK. Mima and The Drawing Centre, New York, were one of five partnerships each awarded £1m. Mima’s aim is to build an important collection of drawings made by artists living and working in North and South America.
Mr Worsdale said: “This is a tremendous endorsement of a very young gallery’s ambition to make a valuable contribution to the UK art scene.”
The gallery was the backdrop for September’s Proms in the Park which saw more than 5,500 people crowd into Centre Square for a live broadcast beamed around the country as part of the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms broadcast.
“The Tees Valley is delighted that the country has seen the passion and pleasure at our Proms in the Park,” said David Kelly, chair of Visit Tees Valley. “There was a wonderful outpouring of spirit and that reflects an area where the people are renowned for their big hearts.
“I hope the BBC was thrilled to have been able to show a sea of faces full of joy and we look forward to the opportunity of hosting this great occasion in 2008.”
The classical music extravaganza featured performances from the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra, the Cleveland Philharmonic Choir and Teesside opera singer Susannah Clarke – one of the campaigners responsible for bringing it to the Tees Valley.
Entertainment was also held earlier in the evening in the run-up to the main event including a line-up of local talent including Journey South, The Wildcats of Kilkenny and the Tees Valley Youth Choir.
The evening ended with a big screen live link to London’s Royal Albert Hall with millions watching worldwide as the classics including Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and the National Anthem resounded across the town.
Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon is urging people to get behind the bid for 2008. He thinks the event showcased what the town can do.
“Let’s all get behind this campaign,” he said. “BBC Proms in the Park was a signal to the world that we’re on our way up in Middlesbrough. It was a fantastic event shared by millions and did much to build our reputation for hosting world-class events.”
Bauhaus 1919-1933 is on at mima, Middlesbrough until February 17, 2008. Details on (01642) 726720 or www.visitmima.com