Artist Heads Home and Draws on His Roots; STUDENTS Wishing to Study Art and Design Shouldn't Be Deterred by the Economic Climate, Reckons Artist Tim Brennan Who Tells HELEN FRANKS about His New Role

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Byline: HELEN FRANKS

INTERNATIONALLY known artist Tim Brennan has returned to his roots in his new role as head of art and design at Sunderland University.

His first foray into art was as a pupil at the primary school which is now the university's St Mary's building, housing the art and design foundation degree course and the university crche.

Tim has even bought the home in which he grew up and first developed a passion for art and history.

"I believe I was meant to come back, I'm like a homing pigeon!" says the 44-year-old father-of-three.

"Teaching art and being an academic leader of art and design in Sunderland is as much a passion as it is a challenge."

In 1984, while considering career options, Tim enrolled on a foundation diploma in art and design at Sunderland when it was still a polytechnic.

It set him on course for a fine art degree at Hull and postgraduate research at The Slade School of Fine Art in London.

Two decades later he was back on campus to complete a three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council fellowship and became programme leader for an MA in curating.

But Tim feels his journey has come full circle with his new role, in which he will aim to develop the department and enhance its reputation.

"I have taught in lots of places and been at the centre of a lot of things, as both an artist and curator, but it seems to me that Sunderland has so much potential as a city and a university," he says.

"It has a wealth of experience and talent."

He is pleased to see the university and city united behind venues such as the National Glass Centre, the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and the Cohesion glass makers' network and forthcoming new gallery. Since 1987, Tim has made his name through performance, photography, sculpture, writing, drawing, teaching and curating exhibitions.

Notable projects include Crusade, in 1996, when he walked the route of the Jarrow marchers.

He also produced My Sister's Record Collection, comprising more than 2,000 vinyl singles, which was shown at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in 2000.

Over the last decade he has developed guide books based on walking and conversation as art. He has also spoken widely on the social and political role of contemporary art. …