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Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art secures more than £20,000 worth of funding

16 December 2015

In total, more than £20,000 has been secured to fund research into reviving a legacy created to help East Cleveland miners and to tap into the gallery’s ‘useful museum’ vision.

The largest of the grants is £17,000, provided by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art to enable the examination of Boosbeck Industries, an innovative social improvement project launched in East Cleveland during the 1930s.

In addition, grants will be employed by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) to develop its vision as a useful museum, which promotes art as a tool for change. £2,500 was offered by Spanish agency Acción Cultural Española to support a commission with artist Núria Güell, while £1,309 was awarded to Senior Curator Miguel Amado by Art Fund as part of its Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant scheme.

Núria will engage communities in Middlesbrough to address issues around refugees and asylum seekers experiences of displacement. Miguel will be exploring links with European museums whose programmes focus on socially-engaged art.

Closer to home, Boosbeck Industries emerged during the Great Depression era as part of the work camps set up by Major Jim and Ruth Pennyman as a way of tackling high unemployment in former mining villages across East Cleveland.

Wilfred Franks, former student of influential German art school Bauhaus, worked with the miners, creating furniture from bookshelves to benches. His involvement led the furniture to have a distinctive modernist style, with few original pieces still in existence, housed at Ormesby Hall as part of its British art collection.

Boosbeck Industries’ aim was to teach miners furniture making to assist them in developing new skills and a way to make a living. The enterprise closed in 1936, having reignited a community and providing a new lease of life for many former miners.

The history of Boosbeck Industries and its links with more recent art practices will be researched by Adam Clarke, an artist from Middlesbrough and Teesside University graduate. His aim is to enhance understanding of the Boosbeck Industries mission and its relevance to today’s economic climate.

Miguel Amado, senior curator at mima, said: “This is important and fascinating research, which will examine stories of production in the region and how it influences people. There is a great legacy to discover.”

Adam Clarke, who is leading the project, said: “What really inspires me about Boosbeck Industries is that it was set up as a creative way of addressing unemployment through the making of furniture.  It gave people a sense of identity through craft and the work was truly ahead of its time.”

Boosbeck Industries has already been featured in mima’s Localism exhibition, which continues until 7 February 2016. Future plans include the creation of New Boosbeck Industries workshop facilities in Middlesbrough to enhance local employability, with the aim of establishing a contemporary production line based on original designs.

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