Spotlight: The Art House

gobscure research and development at Mental Health Museum, Wakefield. Photo: Axisweb. 

gobscure research and development at Mental Health Museum, Wakefield. Photo: Axisweb. 

The Art House provides time, space and support for artists and associates to develop their critical practice and professional careers. Everyone is welcome to experience contemporary visual art and learn about the practice of being an artist through a year-round programme of exhibitions and events. The Art House is a visual arts development agency and registered charity established in 1994 in response to the lack of facilities for disabled visual artists.

Alongside an accessible programme of training, mentoring, residencies and commissions, The Art House develops collaborative platforms promoting equality and diversity, driving new research and contributing to an essential discourse around the Creative Case for Diversity in contemporary visual arts practice.

We talked with Hannah Mason, The Art House's Change Maker about the space, upcoming exhibitions and providing opportunities for a diverse range of artists.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am an experienced project manager and communications director with over 10 years experience in the arts, education, public and private sectors. As an entrepreneurial creative communicator, I devise digital marketing strategy, design websites, manage online content and deliver business support to creative practitioners.

I joined The Art House senior management team as one of 20 Arts Council England Change Makers. The aim of Change Makers is to increase the diversity of senior leadership in art and culture by helping to develop a cohort of leaders who are Black, minority ethnic and/or disabled by means of a targeted senior leadership training and development programme.

Whilst I am at The Art House I am producing two solo residencies and curating their associated exhibitions.  


You pride yourself in championing and providing opportunities for a diverse range of artists. How do you do this within the organisation and programme?

I am concerned with barriers that prevent artists with more diverse backgrounds from succeeding in their career aims. I try to identify the barriers and help them find ways to break them down. Some barriers are external or institutional, some determined by the status quo and some are self-limiting beliefs that can trap artists into a spiral of self-doubt and lack of confidence.

Change Makers is an opportunity for me to work with an organisation who has been built on the values that access and inclusion need to be tackled head on. We have developed an artistic programme which opens access to a wider range of artists through both the residencies, development programme and the studios. There is an assumption that diverse talent is not out there or that we should continue to separate artists by categorising their status in society. The Art House has always challenged assumptions and highlights great art. The organisation is leading by example as is the Change Makers programme. If we start by acknowledging there is a problem, we can work to find solutions which aren’t about creating separation but integrated processes and shared goals for excellence.


Are there any opportunities for artists coming up that we should look out for?

FIELD GUIDE, our programme of support for artists was launched last month and is full of opportunities to develop your practice and professional career. Highlights include Funding for Artists, ACE Grants for the Arts on Wednesday 1 November 2017 and Exhibition Practice, a five week course taking place through February and March 2018. The full programme can be found on our website here.

Our Work - Life Conference on 7 December is day of speakers and provocations on professional development for graduating fine art students. Speakers include: Glen Stoker, Co-Director of Airspace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, Nick Kaplony, Artquest, Rebecca Huggan, Programme Director, The NewBridge Project, Newcastle, David Gilbert, Programme Producer, The Art House, plus alumni from The Art House Graduate Residency programme.

Book your free ticket here.

We’re developing two new short term residencies, planned to take place over the next few months. Open calls for these opportunities will be shared very soon!

We’re also currently expanding our team to support future developments, in response to our successful application for an increase in funding as an Arts Council NPO. We are looking for a Public Programme Producer and Communications and Admin Officer. Find out more about the roles on our website here

Nudging Meteors, gobscure. Photo: Axisweb

Nudging Meteors, gobscure. Photo: Axisweb

Tell us about your current exhibitions and what’s coming up. Why should we visit?

The two exhibitions I am curating and producing are with artists gobscure and Veronica Ryan. With two very different practices both artists highlight the intricacies involved in presenting concerns of access and inclusion.

With an international reputation and active involvement in disability arts, gobscure’s work challenges institutional narratives of psychiatry, encouraging debate about how we talk with each other about mental health and mental distress. During the Change Makers residency programme, gobscure has been making work in response to the new manifesto at the Mental Health Museum, Fieldhead Hospital, which aims to ‘to explore mental health histories to help forge a sustainable future where people can live fulfilling lives in their communities’.

An exhibition of work produced during his residency, from April to September this year, opened with a specially commissioned performance as part of Artwalk Wakefield on 27 September 2017. In his new film, acheologies, which premiered at the Artwalk, gobscure responds to a 1930s padded cell on display at the Mental Health Museum, one of only a few padded cells that remain intact in the UK today. Exploring tensions between protection, oppression and freedom in historical and contemporary psychiatric care. acheologies is shown at The Art House alongside works that challenge everyday attitudes towards mental distress and the systems of surveillance and control that surround us. 

Veronica Ryan, work in progress, 2017. Photo: Jules Lister

Veronica Ryan, work in progress, 2017. Photo: Jules Lister

Veronica Ryan’s residency is being supported by venues included in the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. A co-commission by The Art House and The Hepworth Wakefield will enable the artist to create a new piece in response to the Masterpieces exhibition at The Hepworth, which examines the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and their deep connections with Yorkshire.  To complete this ambitious work the artist will make use of studios at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  

The exhibition will be the first solo exhibition of Veronica Ryan’s work in the UK for 16 years. The work produced during this residency will be launched at The Art House during Artwalk Wakefield in November 2017 and the new commission will become part of the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection at The Hepworth Wakefield, recently announced as the winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017.

In 2000, Ryan completed a residency at Tate St Ives, where she worked in the former studio of Barbara Hepworth and used marble gifted by the Hepworth Estate. During her time there, Ryan made a series of works that responded to Hepworth’s sculpture, the Cornish landscape and to her own interests in interior and exterior forms, identity and place. A number of these works have since joined existing works by the artist in the Tate Collection and Arts Council Collection.  

During her residency at The Art House, Ryan will have the opportunity to reexamine her connection with Wakefield-born Barbara Hepworth and to continue her explorations of ancestral history, mythologies, migration and loss. With reference to Ryan’s birth place of Monserrat and the devastation caused there by a volcanic eruption in 1995, the artist will consider ideas of mapping narratives of place, home and memory. Stacked structures will be created from items including found objects and textiles. 

Marketa Luskacova, Child in Chiswick Womens Aid, London, 1976 (1976). Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Marketa Luskacova. Courtesy of YSP

Marketa Luskacova, Child in Chiswick Womens Aid, London, 1976 (1976). Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Marketa Luskacova. Courtesy of YSP

Is there another exhibition on currently in the region that you would recommend?

Tread Softly at the Bothy Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been extended until 15 October 2017. What I love about this exhibition is the theme of childhood, family, relationships and the memories we attribute to the lives of people woven into our upbringing so it’s relatable to any audience.

The exhibition shares work taken from the Arts Council Collection and has original poetry from Scottish poet Laurette Jackie Kay. Sarah Coulson, who curated Tread Softly, describes the exhibition as being about “How we find our place in the world and about the fact that it is not always an easy or a comfortable journey’. The combination of the work with the poetry evokes so many childhood memories and questions that still shape who I am today and how I feel about my diasporic heritage. I have been a huge fan of the Sculpture Park for over 20 years so finding myself reflected in the exhibition is a treat for me. I think it has the potential to be a treat for everyone!


Gobscure: Nudging Meteors runs until Friday 10 November 2017 at The Art House. Salvage, Veronica Ryan's residency exhibition launches on Thursday 23 November, 6-8pm and is then open from Wednesday 29 November 2017 - Friday 19 January 2018.

Tread Softly continues at at the Bothy Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park until Sunday 15 October 2017.