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mima: A new and 'useful' vision for the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Director Alistair Hudson explains the way forward for one of the region's major cultural institutions

Michelle Maddison Photography Alistair Hudson
Alistair Hudson

Things are changing at mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) as the gallery works on a new vision. Led by new director Alistair Hudson, mima will become a “useful” museum, accessible to everyone and with a closer focus on serving the community.

Mima, which opened in 2007, is an internationally renowned gallery which has developed a strong reputation in the arts world.

With a policy of accessible excellence, mima exhibits, collects and commissions modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day. Its collections focus particularly on drawing, ceramics and jewellery.

As part of its new vision, mima will continue to display, collect and commission high-profile exhibitions, but it will also focus increasingly on its civic and social function with local communities, connecting with new audiences and groups.

Alistair is keen to take advantage of Middlesbrough’s physical and cultural distance from art hubs such as London by adopting a more experimental approach to audience engagement.

He explained: “My vision for mima is to make it a ‘useful’ museum or institution, and to make it accessible to everyone.

“What’s quite exciting about somewhere like Middlesbrough is that it’s not London and there’s no reason why it should try to be like London.

“It’s nice to think of running a completely different programme aimed at serving the community and its constituents by operating civilly – really acting as part of the region’s social fabric. I think there’s an opportunity here to be experimental and to really take a bit of a leadership role rather than just doing exhibitions we think the art world will appreciate.” This usefulness idea is not completely new. In the 19th century, leading art critic John Ruskin and American philosopher John Dewey both campaigned for the idea of art working functionally in everyday life.

As Alistair put it: “They saw art not for art’s sake, but as a tool for education and for enhancing the world around us.”

The experience Alistair gained through his previous role as deputy director at Grizedale Arts in Coniston, Cumbria, will influence the implementation of his new vision for mima.

Like Middlesbrough, Coniston is distanced from the London art world. Interestingly, Alistair found that artists exhibiting at Grizedale really valued the freedom this gave them. “Artists can really let go, do things they wouldn’t normally do, and this creates a really interesting way of doing art, which then has a real impact.”


Georgina Starr: I, Cave

One of Britain’s most distinctive and internationally celebrated artists, Georgina Starr explores the relationships between words, images, objects and sounds. Her new work reflects her early interest in sculpture and ceramics and her more recent focus on large-scale installations and theatrical performances incorporating film, movement and sound. Rising to prominence in the early 1990s, Starr has developed a unique and captivating language. I, Cave transports the viewer through a complex journey of “cosmic vaults”, obscure corridors and a glittering theatre of memory, history and recollection.

Starr’s mima exhibition includes the new moving image work, The Birth of Sculpture, 2015. Linking to her focus on feminine themes, Starr invited female gallery assistants to play a part by projecting words, voices and sounds into the gallery space.

Alistair Hudson said: “Visitors can expect to be swept up in the magical nature of the show.” I, Cave runs until May 28.

Jewellery gallery

Created in partnership with Teesside University, mima’s jewellery exhibition houses an outstanding international collection of contemporary jewellery from Ted Noten, Gijs Bakker and the North East’s own Wendy Ramshaw.

Visit the gallery and explore beautiful, provocative and fascinating pieces by prestigious jewellers. Traditional materials such as gold and platinum are represented, as well as unusual materials, including rubber, concrete – and teeth.

The gallery displays over 200 pieces, making it the most comprehensive collection outside the Victoria and Albert Museum, and is complemented by a series of events, workshops and talks.

Creative your own art

Get making with family and friends on Saturdays (1-4pm) with mima’s art trolley adventure. The trolley is free to use and is packed with imaginative materials waiting to be turned into wonderful creations.

It is suitable for children of all ages and their families.

You can also visit mima during term time with your pre-schoolers to take part in mini mima. Sessions take place every Thursday from 10am - 11.30am. Sessions respond to mima’s current exhibitions and include experimental making, a singalong, juice and a biscuit. £3.50 per child, no charge for adults.

Find out more at www.visitmima.com


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