Midlands Enterprise Awards 2020

23 | Midlands Enterprise Awards 2020 Best Contemporary Art Gallery - Northamptonshire Fermynwoods Contemporary Art is the Northamptonshire-based charitable organisation dedicated to supporting life through art. With a growing reputation for subverting the norm, Fermynwoods is committed to bringing art into the everyday lives of even untraditional arts audiences, celebrating and demonstrating the power of creativity. Based in Northamptonshire, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art is an educational charity committed to supporting life through art by commissioning innovative and meaningful ways for artists to engage with audiences in public spaces and online. What began in their founder’s home in 1998 has evolved to outgrow the original gallery space, now operating in unexpected locations across Northamptonshire. These include The Arches, a gallery space situated at the family visitor attraction of Fineshade Wood; and Sudborough Green Lodge, Fermynwoods’ woodland residency and outreach venue in an old hunters lodge, nestled in the middle of the richest, most expansive biodiversity grassland in the county. Fermynwoods has also installed exhibitions in virtual and public spaces from forests to National Trust properties, from inside a record-breaking canal tunnel to 90,000ft above the earth. Fermynwoods has proven repeatedly that art is not restricted to four gallery walls. Accordingly, the organisation provides new opportunities for artists by placing them in unexpected locations with the aim of inspiring new work and experiences, often incorporating new technology. Fermynwoods’ in depth artist- led exhibition and education programmes bring national and international artists to schools and public places to help see the familiar in new ways, imagine new possibilities and to create unique experiences for everyday people. Fundamentally, Fermynwoods has grown to find innovative ways in which the arts can reach Sep20667 non-traditional arts audiences, in particular rural or disadvantaged communities. The organisation regularly works with members of the public, schools and young people not currently in mainstream education to ignite an enthusiasm for learning through the arts. Fermynwoods is a strong believer in the crucial role of the arts in all of our lives, and that creative responses are called for from people, communities, businesses and governments as we continue to face an uncertain future. Led by their Director James Steventon, Fermynwoods is made up of artists and problem solvers, who apply their creativity to question, stimulate, support and challenge what is, and to imagine what could be. Their local knowledge of the urban and rural, historic and new communities of Northamptonshire is vital in their work that combines with their expertise of the arts to work with and inspire local communities. Their boundless energy and creativity has enhanced the organisation’s ability in dealing with adversities such as Covid-19. Pressures on regional and national economies have put strains on many organisations that have been unable to continue operating safely, but the need for creativity remains. Indeed, during the first lockdown, studies show that demand for the arts soared by over 40%. Fermynwoods has been able to respond positively, navigating the trickiest periods thanks to the adaptability and innovation of artists who continue to be devoted to supporting life through art. These same attributes have facilitated Fermynwoods’ positive response to the climate crisis, exploring how art will play a role in a sustainable future. Working alongside movements such as Culture Declares, the charity has been instigating discussions between artists, non- artists, businesses and non-arts professionals, exploring new possibilities to celebrate the cohesion of everyday life with the natural world. ‘In Steps of Sundew’ is Fermynwoods’ current two-year programme that is exploring this concept of the push and pull of nature and human presence, and the impact of extracting resources from the former for the sake of the latter. Named after one of the largest walking dragline excavators in the world, and a carnivorous plant that digests insects to supplement the poor mineral nutrition of the soil in which they grow, ‘In Steps of Sundew’ poses questions about the relationship between the natural and industrial worlds and how these might coexist in the face of climate breakdown. With other exciting projects beginning in 2021, including an exhibition of contemporary art at the 950-year-old Rockingham Castle, it remains an exciting time for Fermynwoods. As they continue to bring contrasts together, the dynamic organisation is successfully demonstrating art’s true potential in uniting communities for a long, sustainable future. Company: Fermynwoods Contemporary Art Web Address: www.fermynwoods.org

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