Research & Critical Debate

Inclusion and mainstream programming

Led and delivered by Project Art Works, CVAN South East has been supporting a three year programme of research and development addressing inclusion in visual arts practice, programming and collaboration. Project Art Works is a unique artist led organisation based in Hastings who work with people with severe neurological impairments.   

CVAN South East has provided the collaborative framework for the project  which was devised to test new ways of working across the sector. A series of symposia and workshops, bringing together artists, practitioners, curators, social care providers and people with severe neurological impairments were run in various venues across the region with the aim of initiating an open and exploratory debate around the issues of diversity, inclusivity and excellence in the visual arts.

One of the outcomes of this rich and complex programme will be an exhibition and seminar held at the Milton Keynes Gallery (see news), the result of a 15 month collaboration between Project Art Works and Milton Keynes Gallery.

Click here to see documentation and evaluation on all aspects of the CVAN South East inclusion and mainstream programme.

Go and see

Central to the research and critical debate strand of the programme was a series of international visits which proved successful in generating new ideas for programmes, strengthening relationships between individuals and organisations and developing a shared agenda across the region.

Istanbul Biennial - The first visit in September 2009 was to Istanbul to take part in the 11th International Biennial What keeps mankind Alive?  the title was taken from the Threepenny Opera and explored art in relation to Brechtian principles as a vehicle for social change. The premise of this and previous Biennials was to create an exhibition model enabling a dialogue between artists and the audience. Through a programme of exhibitions, discussions and meetings with key individuals involved in the Biennial the group of 17 artists, curators and directors were able to engage with the work of artists from diverse cultures.

The visit was organised by Visiting Arts as part of a wider initiative involving curators across England and Scotland and also in association with the Contemporary Art Society. As such, the CVAN South Eastgroup became part of a wider UK programme providing regional, national and international networking opportunities.

"Being with and  looking at art with people over several days enables a dialogue to be  more fully rounded and one gets a much greater sense of their work and  interests and the way these influence cultural priorities in the region".

Ars Electronica - The largest international festival for electronic art, was selected as the second visit in September 2010 because of its potential contribution to the Digital and New Media strategy. The aim of the trip was to raise awareness of digital arts practice amongst regional curators and to encourage more programming and critical engagement with the medium. The visit provided an opportunity for South East based visual arts curators to experience digital artworks first hand and to meet with artists and curators from the digital art field.

The CVAN South East delegation was organised and led by Honor Hargar, Director of Lighthouse and Julianne Pierce, Executive Producer at Blast Theory, who arranged a number of meetings for the 15 strong group during the festival. The dialogue about how to support digital arts programming in the future continues through CVAN South East’s working group.

Responses from participants:

“I have a much better understanding of new media and will be much more likely to consider working with new media artists in future.”

“I got a real sense throughout the festival that sharing skills and knowledge was of great importance at this time. In order to survive in the current climate, and to create work and projects that stay relevant, sustainable and dynamic, having a network of people to connect and share resources with seems vital. The conversations generated through the trip were key to keeping this sense of connectedness active.”


In Spring 2009 Saul Albert of Xchangelab worked in open consultation with CVAN South East members, scoping the needs, initiatives and priorities for the network. This included a visioning workshop run by The People Speak with Andy Gibson from Sociability with 22 members of the CVAN South East network. The final vision report and several videos from the event starting a networkone stop shop for visual arts and regional and cultural identity can be accessed from the archived tpse blog where they were used to summarise the debate and invite further online discussion. One of the outcomes of this work was that TPSE identified the need for regional initiatives around marketing and audience development .

Judgement and Quality regional seminar

At the time when Arts Council England were about to implement a new system of ‘peer to peer’ review across their regularly funded arts organisations, CVAN South East held a regional seminar at John Hansard Gallery. This took place in January 2009 and explored issues to do with judgement and quality, establishing CVAN South East’s role in providing unique opportunities for the sector to come together to network, debate and research.