We recently discovered that the Leverhulme Trust has discontinued its Artist in Residence Grants Scheme. This isn’t just sad, it’s frankly tragic.
In our view the Leverhulme Artist in Residence scheme is one of the few on-going and established schemes that supports artists to work with other researchers across the natural and social sciences as well as humanities.
The scheme has enabled a wide range of interesting, challenging and provocative work to emerge and is perhaps one of the foremost mechanisms in the UK for interdisciplinary collaboration involving artists. It is one of the few opportunities which really understood that artists collaborating with other research disciplines should start not from an assumption of illustration and public communication, but from first principles of mutual interest. It provided time for genuine dialogue and for unexpected results.
As one recipient commented, the scheme is also important because it paid artists directly and at a rate that was commensurate with the investment of time in research. The importance of this point cannot be underestimated. No other schemes that involve artists with academics actually provide sensible funding for the artists.
And note it’s probably a scheme that invested between £250,000 and £500,000 out of a total annual grantmaking of something like £110 million annually.
We are familiar with a number of artists who have benefited significantly from receiving Leverhulme Awards and I believe that these awards have also opened up research teams to new experiences and understanding coming from the arts.
- Alec Finlay‘s current work Gathering developed with the Anthropology Department at the University of Aberdeen is in part funded by a Leverhulme Artist in Residence Award.
- Hannah Imlach’s immently opening show From the Dark Ocean Comes Light at Summerhall in Edinburgh developed in collaboration with The Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics & Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University and the Changing Oceans Group at The University of Edinburgh.
- The publication Gut Gardening just reviewed is the result of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy‘s Leverhulme Artist in Residence work with Dr Wendy Russell at the Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen.
- Hanna Tuulikki has been working with Professor Simon Kirby, Chair of Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh.
- Rachel Duckhouse worked with Professor Maggie Cusack School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, which resulted in an exhibition Shell Meets Bone, opening imminently at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.
- Andrea Roe has been working with Dr Kenny Rutherford, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Scotland’s Rural College.
And these are only recent examples in Scotland.
In response to a request for further explanation beyond the statement on the website, the following was received from the Trust,
The Trust Board periodically reviews all the Trust’s funding schemes and considers how best its funds might be used. This scheme had been running for a number of years, and last autumn, in view of the pressure of funds and low success rates for some other schemes, the Board took the decision to suspend the scheme and reallocate the funds. It is, of course possible, that the same or a similar scheme will be reinstated at some time in the future, but I’m afraid that there are no immediate plans to do so.
I realise that this decision is disappointing for you.
From this we can understand that a ‘land grab’ has been made, possibly on the basis of ‘greater impact’ and a vital support for artists and interdisciplinarity has been erased.
Should you feel strongly about this, you can also write to Mr N W A FitzGerald KBE FRSA, Chairman, The Leverhulme Trust, 1 Pemberton Row, London, EC4A 3BG. Direct emails to the Chaiman via Assistant Director Jean Cater firstname.lastname@example.org .
This article was edited on 27/3/17. The statement relating to the value of grants awarded as in relation to the overall value of grants was changed to reflect more accurately the varying number of grants made over a number of years.