'Useful' Role for Museum; Mima Director Alistair Hudson Explains His New Vision for the Renowed Middlesbrough Art Gallery

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

'Useful' Role for Museum; Mima Director Alistair Hudson Explains His New Vision for the Renowed Middlesbrough Art Gallery


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 highprofile 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."

Mima became part of Teesside University in October and retains Middlesbrough Council and Arts Council England as partners. …

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