Announcement: West of England Visual Arts Alliance

New con­sor­tium award­ed £1.18 mil­lion to trans­form the future of Visu­al Arts in Bris­tol and the West of England


We are thrilled to announce a new consortium partnership, the West of England Visual Arts Alliance, has been awarded £1.18 million by Arts Council England to transform the future of visual arts in Bristol and the West of England.

A new National Lottery development fund was launched by Arts Council England in 2020 to increase professional development opportunities and commissioning capacity for the visual arts, and to ensure ambition and opportunity is thriving in this region. In response, a new consortium partnership of nine organisations across the region was formed to bring about this step change.

Co-led by Spike Island and Visual Arts South West, the consortium includes partners Bath Spa University School of Art, Bristol City Council, The Brunswick Club, Creative Youth Network, Culture Weston, North Somerset Council and UWE Bristol. Our collective vision is for the visual arts community in Bristol and the West of England to be more progressive, sustainable and inclusive by 2024.

Over the next three years, the West of England Visual Arts Alliance programme aims to transform Bristol and the West of England into a place where the visual arts can thrive, providing critical opportunities and support to enable diverse local artists, curators and young people to develop their careers and achieve their potential.

Specific detail on the hundreds of opportunities will be announced soon, to include:

  • 2,760 opportunities for at least 500 artists

  • 3 artist development programmes led by Spike Island, Visual Arts South West and The Brunswick Club

  • Online and place-based mentoring, resources and interdisciplinary skills workshops

  • Research and development bursaries of between £500–£1,000 awarded to more than 15 South West-based artists, curators and independent art workers each year

  • Major new commissioning and exhibition opportunities for South West-based artists

  • Research and development fellowships of £10k awarded to 3 South West-based artists, artist-led groups or other independent art workers each year

  • New positive action policies for subsidised studio provision and artist development opportunities, designed to remove barriers to access for underrepresented groups

  • New fellowship and mentoring opportunities for artists, curators and young people, developed with Creative Youth Network

Artists and curators who would like to hear first about these opportunities are encouraged to sign up to our mailing list.

This strategic partnership will also provide support for access costs and network hubs, help artist-led groups to secure urgently needed homes, and enable artist-led organisations and studio providers to become more sustainable and inclusive by adopting new models of best practice. By advocating for the visual arts to be embedded in the region’s strategic development, it aims to ensure that the sector’s role in regeneration, well-being, and economic and community development is fully recognised.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, says:

“We are delighted to be announcing more details of our £1.18 million development programme, Supporting Visual Arts Progression in Bristol and the West of England, and we’re pleased to announce that the partnership consortium, the West of England Visual Arts Alliance, will be the recipient of the funding award.

The programme was designed with the local visual arts ecology in mind, to transform the opportunities in Bristol and across the West of England. This is the best opportunity we’ve had to direct a substantial amount of investment towards the development of the visual arts in the city and region.

The consortium’s proposal looks set to realise the principal recommendations from the review by creating a more robust package of professional development opportunities for artists living and working in the West of England; increasing the number of commissions open to artists in the region; and nurturing the connectivity between artists and other players in the visual arts ecosystem.

This development fund will help Arts Council to deliver our strategic vision, as set out in Let’s Create 2020-30 and will help to ensure England’s cultural sector is innovative, collaborative and international by backing organisations and creative practitioners to excel at what they do.”

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