Conversations with History: Past, Present and Futures of Manchester’s Art Ecology

1 June 2024 — 13 June 2024

Please join us for a two-part series of conversations that bring together three historic Manchester-based institutions in their anniversary years to discuss the histories and future of the arts in Manchester and surrounding regions.

Part 1: 200 Years of Manchester Art Gallery
1 June, 1-3pm in the Lecture Room at Manchester Art Gallery
Book your free tickets here

This first event takes the origins of Manchester Art Gallery as its starting point, looking at its multiple histories and putting them in conversation with the present. To initiate a conversation about the roles played by this civic art institution and how it relates to similar organisations in the North of England, we will ask questions about who founded the gallery, and how that impacted its development. We will also consider the gallery as a site of education (for example, hosting life drawing classes), provoking wider questions about who had access to these events and how the gallery continues to be an educational institution today. Through asking these questions, we hope to uncover some of the lesser-known voices and hidden histories that have been involved in the story of Manchester’s historic gallery, drawing parallels with institutions in Manchester such as Castlefield Gallery and Manchester School of Art and further afield in particular Leeds Art Gallery.

The event will be chaired by Danielle Child (Manchester School of Art) and will take the form of three talks from Rebecca Wade (Special Collections and Galleries, University of Leeds), Hannah Williamson (Fine Art Curator, Manchester Art Gallery), and Thomas Dukes (Curator and Researcher) followed by Q&A. Peter Davis, the archivist for Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (MAFA) established in 1858 will also be at the event offering attendees a chance to look through some of MAFA ‘s scrapbooks.

Part Two: 40 Years of the Future
13 June 6-8pm at Castlefield Gallery 
Book your free tickets here

The second event in the series will take the form of a chaired conversation between artists, curators and researchers with connections to organisers within Manchester and neighbouring cities. The histories of marginalised artists in the first event will serve as a prompt for discussing the emergence of current and future initiatives in the city region and regions that aim to amplify less visible or peripheral voices in the art world today, including artist-led groups and organisations.

The event will invite us to consider the continued need for these kinds of groups and spaces in our contemporary social, economic and political context. We ask: What has changed since the founding of Manchester Art Gallery and Castlefield Gallery, respectively? How have artists looking for spaces that fulfil their needs shaped the city? What role do art institutions play within Manchester’s art ecology today? And what the future for artists in our city and surrounding regions could or should look like?

– Thomas Griffiths: Artist and co-director and curator of GLOAM, Sheffield.
– Jo McGonigal: Artist and Fine Art lecturer in the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Jo McGonigal will be exhibiting at Castlefield Gallery with Frank Bowling later this year as part of the gallery’s 40th anniversary programme.
– Rachel Goodyear: Artist and co-director of Islington Mill, Salford.
– Yuen Fong Ling: Artist and curator based at Bloc Studios Sheffield, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art and Post Graduate Research Tutor at Sheffield Hallam University. Former director of exhibitions at Castlefield Gallery (1999-2005).
– Kay Shah: Artist and member of DMZ studios. He was recently awarded the Castlefield Gallery Artist Professional Development Award at HOME as part of the Manchester Open 2023.

These events are supported by AHEAD (Arts and Humanities Engagement And Dialogue), the public engagement programme of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Image: Left – Manchester Art Gallery, photographed by Andrew Brooks. Right – Castlefield Gallery.