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Connect10: connecting artists and cultural venues

  • Date: 19 June 2012
  • Artform: Museums
  • Area: National
two men stand in red boiler suits in front of ss Great Britain surrounded by green jelly Bompas & Parr and their jelly creation at ss Great Britain for Connect10, Photo: Stephen Lewis

A pioneering competition aimed at connecting world-class artists with cultural venues drew thousands of visitors to museums, libraries and galleries across the UK over a May weekend this year.

Connect10, proposed a list of ten artists - including Martin Parr, Bob & Roberta Smith and Polly Morgan - and invited cultural and heritage sites to submit ideas for which artist they would like to host at their venue and what event that artist could put on.

The competition, which attracted thousands of visitors to 10 venues between 18 and 20 May 2012, was run by Culture24 as part of Museums at Night and made possible with funding from the Arts Council's lottery-funded Grants for the arts programme.

It aimed to enable venues that might not usually stage high-quality arts events to do so, allowing audiences access to this work and giving them the opportunity to see these venues in a new light. It also encouraged organisations to be creative in finding new ways to use their venues.

Photographer Simon Roberts worked with the smallest venue in the competition, the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, on an innovative 'talking heads' video project exploring the impact of government cuts while Claire Barclay explored the Old Operating Theatre's collection. Installation artist Susan Stockwell's event at the Wolverhampton At Gallery has led to plans for further collaboration with the venue.

How did it work?

A total of 200 venues submitted ideas, setting out which artist they would like to host and the work they could do at their venue. These venues were then narrowed to 28 that were put forward for the public vote.

More than 21,000 votes were cast by members of the public. The 10 venues with the most votes won the chance to host an event by their chosen artist.

What impact did it have?

Cultural spaces seen in a different light

One of the aims of Connect 10 was to encourage venues to think about using their collections and spaces in a different way that might appeal to audiences. One example of this was at competition winner SS Great Britain, where jellymongers Bompas & Parr created a spectacular, fluorescent installation using 55,000 tons of luminous green coloured jelly.

At Liverpool's Victoria Gallery & Museum, another of the Connect10 winners, taxidermist and artist Polly Morgan conducted her first full public taxidermy demonstration dissecting a starling and putting back together within the space of an hour and inadvertently causing a cameraman to pass out.

Installation artist Bob & Roberta Smith turned Eastbourne's Towner Gallery into a Museums at Nightclub, creating a 'University of Misunderstanding' featuring a 'bad art competition', a 'word invention wall' and a performance by the Ken Ardley Playboys.

In each case the events helped to create a sense of fun and intrigue, attracting attention and in turn bringing in new audiences to engage with the spaces.

Inspiring ambassadors

The events were designed to enable venues to connect with their networks and inspire audiences to be ambassadors for them. It also allowed audiences to be involved in the process of staging an event - advocating for it, voting for it and attending it.

Profile-raising

With prestigious artists involved, Connect10 also helped venues drive increased media coverage for their events, which in turn helped boost visitor numbers and helped to raise their public profile.

One particularly high profile artist was photographer Martin Parr, whose event comprised an illustrated lecture about his work at Stoke-on-Trent's Wedgwood Museum, one of the 10 competition winners.

More than 2,750 attended Connect10 events across the country, raise awareness of cultural venues among people who might not normally choose to visit one in their spare time.

Key statistics

  • 200 venues submitted ideas
  • 28 venues took part in the competition
  • 21,000 votes were cast by the public
  • 10 artists produced 10 events in conjunction with 10 venues
  • it contributed towards £3.4 million worth of coverage on TV, radio, in print and on the web that Museums at Night attracted in 2012

Further information

Find out more about the artists and venues that took part in Connect10.

Learn more about lottery-funded Grants for the arts.

Watch our video to see footage from two of the events; Bompas & Parr at SS Great Britain, and Bob & Roberta Smith at Towner Gallery Eastbourne.