North London’s Freelands Foundation has awarded £800,000 ($1 million) to two leading arts organizations in the U.K. as part of a £3 million ($4 million) funding initiative to address racial inequality across the country’s cultural sector.
The foundation’s long-term funding has been allocated towards two ambitious new residency programs launched by the Wysing Arts Centre and the University of the Arts London’s Decolonising Art Institute. Together, the two groups will organize collaborations between 120 artists of color and 30 domestic museums and galleries in a move to advance equity across the arts in the U.K.
Under the plan, the Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire will use £500,000 ($670,000) for a 10-year-long artist development program called The Syllabus. As part of the series, 10 BIPOC artists will be tapped to carry out creative project across eight art organizations each year. Concurrently, the Institute at UAL will receive £300,000 ($400,000) in funds that will go towards a three-year program called 20/20. For the program, 20 artists will be based at U.K. hosting institutions and will produce new commissions for their respective permanent collections.
Among the 30 partnering institutions throughout the U.K. are Hepworth Wakefield, The Box in Plymouth, MIMA in Middlesbrough, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive at the Buckinghamshire New University in Wycombe, the Sheffield Museums Trust, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
Freelands Foundation was established by media heiress, Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of conservative British media magnate Rupert Murdoch, in 2015. Its not the first time the organization has paired artists with museums and nonprofits. In 2018, the foundation started a new funding initiative called the Freelands Artist Programme, a scheme that paired regional arts organizations with emerging artists.
The most recent grants given to Wynsing and UAL follow the foundation’s launch of a Diversity Action Group, an internal panel that aims to eradicate racial inequality in the visual arts. The panel, chaired by Black Cambridge scholar Sonita Alleyne alongside artists John Akomfrah and Hardeep Pandhal selected the two groups to receive the funds after reviewing competing proposals for the grant.