Major funding award enables River Tamar Project to develop into the Atlantic Project

A major funding award from Arts Council England will enable the River Tamar Project to develop into the Atlantic Project from November 2016 onwards, with a large-scale public art project taking place across the city of Plymouth over the summer of 2018. Developed as a partnership between Plymouth University and the city’s new History Centre (the £34 million re-development of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery), the Atlantic Project will act as a pilot for a new international festival of contemporary art for the South West of England, in the lead-up to Mayflower 400 in 2020.

The Atlantic Project forms a major part of Horizon, the two-year visual arts development programme for Plymouth which was awarded £635,000 from Arts Council England’s ‘Ambition for Excellence’ fund earlier this month. Supported by Plymouth University, Horizon has been developed in collaboration with Plymouth Culture, along with a consortium of visual arts organisations and artist-led projects, including Karst, Peninsula Arts, Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth College of Art and Visual Arts Plymouth.

Taking place in public contexts and outdoor locations across the city, the Atlantic Project will aim to raise the critical profile of visual arts in Plymouth and the South West. As well as commissioning site-specific works in the public realm by artists of international renown and supporting experimental emerging practice beyond the gallery, the project will place a strong emphasis upon talent development, fostering artist-led activities, and community engagement. Coinciding with existing popular events over the summer of 2018, the intention is to both actively involve local residents and to attract a wide range of visitors to Plymouth including holidaymakers to Cornwall and Devon, as well as cultural tourists and audiences for contemporary art. Thus the project will aim to deliver a highly engaging experience for a diverse range of audiences that is relevant and distinctive to the locality, whilst further identifying Plymouth as an international cultural destination.

Still from Subatlantic, Ursula Biemann (2015)

The River Tamar Project (established in 2012) will be incorporated into the Atlantic Project, with a distinct programme of activity, continuing to commission and produce artists’ projects in relation to the Tamar and the communities who live and work along it. In the build-up to Mayflower 400, the focus will be on a long-term community engagement programme, from 2017 – 2020, entitled The Mouth of the River, which will intertwine with the Atlantic Project but deliver an autonomous series of sustained participation projects at a local level. Taking the long tradition of the river as a metaphor for ‘time passing’, The Mouth of the River will focus on performance and time-based art practices in the context of today’s information-saturated, global network society. Artists and youth organisations based along the Tamar, which forms the border between Devon and Cornwall, will be paired with international practitioners and peer organisations situated along the Charles and Hudson rivers in the USA, developing long-term collaborations and exchange projects in the lead-up to Mayflower 400.

Tom Trevor, Artistic Director of the Atlantic Project, said:

“This is an exciting time for visual arts in Plymouth, and the South West. The 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower in 2020 is an exceptional opportunity to make a step change in arts and culture in the region. As part of this process, we are delighted to be launching the Atlantic Project in 2018, which will act as a pilot for a new international festival of contemporary art for the South West.”

“The Atlantic Project builds upon the work of the River Tamar Project, which will continue as a distinct programme of activity, with artists’ projects commissioned specifically in relation to the communities who live and work along the river. At the same time, we will be developing partnerships with peer organisations across the Atlantic, and elsewhere. Thus the Atlantic Project will aim to be both international and local in its focus, bringing critically-acclaimed artists from around the world to the South West and, simultaneously, supporting locally-based artists and the development of the arts ecology in Plymouth and the region.”

“We are grateful to Arts Council England and Plymouth Culture for their support, along with our core partners, Plymouth University and the History Centre, and look forward to working with our collaborators in the Horizon programme, as well as artists and communities, in the build-up to 2020.”

Headline Image: Still from Liquidity Inc., Hito Steyerl (2014)