From Barbara Hepworth to David Hockney, Henry Moore to Damien Hirst, it’s safe to say Yorkshire has always led the artistic pack in the UK. And now thanks to the support of one of the county’s most prestigious institutions, Yorkshire’s next generation of artists are being given the platform to continue upon, and excel beyond, this tradition of artistic greatness.
Housed in the 1931 headquarters of the Joshua Tetley & Son brewery in the heart of Leeds’ South Bank, The Tetley reopened as a gallery in 2013, with a learning studio, work spaces for the creative industries, restaurant and bar onsite. Now regarded as the beating heart of Leeds’ art scene, and nationally recognised as a pioneering centre for contemporary art and learning, The Tetley’s programme of exhibitions, residencies and events reflect their ambition to bring audiences from all backgrounds closer to art and to artists.
And it was this ambition which fuelled the creation of their newest developmental initiative this time last year: the Tetley Associate Artists Programme (TAAP). Teaming up with the beer from which they inherited their name, The Tetley created the programme to further support, nurture and inspire Yorkshire’s emerging talent to pursue a career in the arts and began a trailblazing new campaign in August 2018 by welcoming four local up-and-coming artists, selected by a panel of experts, to complete a bespoke, 12-month programme of mentoring and development. And now, having enjoyed a successful inaugural year, the gallery have welcomed the programme’s return with a second cohort of artists for 2020.
‘The TAAP was a new scheme to support emerging talent in Leeds, in the hope of fostering a new generation of artists,’ explains Georgia Taylor Aguilar, The Tetley’s Public Programmes and Residencies Producer. ‘It’s unique in providing a flexible programme which is built around, and responds to, our artists’ needs, because it has been created by artists themselves. Artists remain at the centre of everything we do here, and we’re proud to continue investing in emerging artists to create new work, and then provide a public platform from which they can showcase that work.’
Focused on finding artists who already demonstrate a strong direction in their practice, but who The Tetley believe would benefit from external support and recognition from a public art gallery to take their talent to the next level, the TAAP grants each inductee a budget of £1,500 to spend on all their bespoke needs, such as mentorship, curatorial visits, research trips and building networks. More than all this, however, is the confidence the programme has instilled within its students, and the belief that has come from the fact that The Tetley have so publicly pledged their support of their work.
‘With the generous and consistently-accessible support and knowledge from the other TAAP artists (communicated through a very successful Whatsapp group!) I’ve been given a space to discuss my frustration and disappointments, celebrate my accomplishments and have my practice pushed in the most constructive way,’ says Michaela Cullen, one of 2018–19’s TAAP artists. ‘The confidence and ambition that has blossomed within my practice has created an unforgettable moment in my development, and has inspired my future as an artist. I’ve been able to deepen the meaningfulness of my research, writing and making and, because of that, I’m on track to make my most ambitious piece of work to date.’
Alongside Michaela on last year’s TAAP was Emii Alrai, Alice Chandler and Harlan Whittingham. Emii, a first-generation British Iraqi artist whose practice is informed by inherited nostalgia, historical identity and post-colonial museum practices of collecting and displaying objects, has used the TAAP for research at the British Museum and V&A, as well as learning lithography and pewter casting. Exploring the intersection between art, craft and design, Alice creates sculptural, often site-specific, installations and objects that seek to interrogate our relationships with the domestic, functional and wearable. The TAAP has enabled her to visit Sheffield, Manchester and London for research, and she has now been awarded a bursary to study under celebrated artist-curator and writer Rosalind Davis. While for Harlan, who documents the subjects and objects involved within processes of cultural production and consumption in his art, the TAAP has provided an opportunity to develop a strong body of research and new moving image work, and the guidance which has helped him decide to return to education to pursue a MA in Fine Art at the University of Leeds.
For Michaela, who references xeno-feminism, sci-fi and utopian futures, paralleled with ancient Irish storytelling across moving image, sound and sculptural installations, the TAAP has done more than provide her with the opportunity to embark upon unrivalled studio visits and research trips – such as the pilgrimage she took to the holy site of Knock, County Mayo, in Ireland. It has also granted her the freedom to support herself financially, eliminating that ‘leap of faith’ element that dissuades many aspiring artists from pursuing their practice professionally.
‘I really appreciate The Tetley’s understanding of the need for flexibility within the TAAP,’ she says. ‘I find it reassuring that the institution understands how difficult the current climate is for young artists, balancing their employment and practice with running projects and taking part in exhibitions. I’ve never felt able to apply for residencies across the UK and Europe in the past, because of the expectation that you will make yourself fully available for extended periods of time. I feel that it has gone unnoticed by institutions that this availability is near impossible for those of us who, out of necessity, work full-time. So the TAAP feels like a very special and considerate opportunity, which I’ve been able to wholly dedicate myself to.’
And while they are now confidently embarking upon their second annual TAAP – with a new cohort of artists – The Tetley aren’t content to rest on their laurels just yet.
‘It’s very important to us that we ensure our artist opportunities are always exciting, brave and transformational,’ says Georgia. ‘So an independent evaluation was carried out to objectively evaluate the TAAP programme following its first year. For this year, we’re focused on widening each artist’s reach within Leeds and Yorkshire to grow the existing TAAP community and networks. We’re inviting guest artists and curators to join our sessions, and we will reveal more of what the artists get up to on the programme with newsletter features, Instagram story takeovers and by documenting our annual TAAP trip.’
KP Culver, Ro Hardaker, Jack Pell and Annabel Taylor-Munt are the next outfit of Yorkshire artists who will benefit from The Tetley’s developmental initiative. And if their past work is anything to go by, the 2019–20 TAAP promises trailblazing new art in bucketloads. But just because their new programme has started doesn’t mean The Tetley have forgotten about their TAAP graduates.
‘Even when the TAAP programme ends, we are still keen to support our artists,’ Georgia explains. ‘From working with them on further projects or funding applications, to providing support through a public programme event or making recommendations for other networking or project opportunities, we’ll be there.
‘The Tetley has a growing reputation for supporting artists at a pivotal moment in their career to take the next step, with Tai Shani’s Tetley exhibition and co-commission, Semiramis, nominated for the 2019 Turner Prize. We believe we positively impact the lives of the people that live in Leeds and Yorkshire by welcoming over 120,000 visitors every year, and feel that the diversity of Leeds and the North is a vital strength: bringing people together to encourage dialogues that wouldn’t usually happen.’
To find out more about The Tetley’s Associate Artist Programme and their current exhibitions, visit www.thetetley.org