The Grizedale Society as it was then known, established its arts programme over 35 years ago, centered principally on theatre and visual art. The art programme achieved international significance, contributing to the discourse and development of public art in Britain through the 1980’s. Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Harris made particularly significant and much-imitated works in the forest at this time, and the period is well documented in the illustrated book 'The Grizedale Experience: Sculpture, Arts and Theatre in a Lakeland Forest' edited by Paul Harris and founding director Bill Grant (Canongate Books, 1991), which is for sale through our office.
Ups & Downs
In 1990 the programme won the prestigious Prudential Award for the Arts for achievements over the previous decade. However under a succession of different directorships, the subsequent programme failed to maintain its central position in the UK visual arts scene and lost its status.
Wind of Change
In 1999 the Board took the decision to close the Grizedale Visitor Centre's 'Theatre In The Forest' and focus - for strategic and financial reasons- on the visual arts programme. Under new director Adam Sutherland the intention was to reinvigorate Grizedale and also to return it to the significant position within the arts community it had enjoyed in the 1980's.
Grizedale Arts now operates as a research and development agency for contemporary artists. Its roll-call includes many high profile artists and creative practitioners from Turner Prize winning artist Laure Prouvost to veteran film director Ken Russell. Over the last decade it has acquired a significant reputation for developing emerging artists careers and pioneering new approaches to artistic production and presentation. Grizedale has worked with diverse prestigious organisations including PS1 MOMA (New York City), A Foundation (UK), and the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale (Japan). Director Adam Sutherland has written for many artists monographs (including Olaf Breuning, Juneau/projects and Marcus Coates) and regularly contributes to media publications and broadcasts.
The current programme focuses on awarding a number of research and development grants to artists and creative practitioners, enabling them develop ideas and projects in relation to the extraordinarily complex environment of the English Lake District.
In contrast to traditional residency programmes, Grizedale has neither studios nor exhibition space, but instead provides artists with the opportunity to realise these projects using the social, cultural and economic networks of both local and international sites.
There is no requirement for artists to produce an exhibition or finished product; the emphasis is on process and the dissemination of ideas, making this process accessible to a wider audience by siting active contemporary arts alongside the traditional culture of the rural environment.
Grizedale Arts now occupies Lawson Park Farm near the village of Coniston, and continues to develop this active, successful and highly influential residency programme, which has looked beyond the immediate confines of the forest, offering a wide range of artists, film makers, writers and practitioners from other disciplines the opportunity to develop new thinking and practice.
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