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Bruntwood and Grand Union arts initiative hailed as boost to Birmingham’s cultural scene

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Two Birmingham artists, chosen as the first recipients of free studio space for a year in the city centre, have praised the initiative as a significant spur for Birmingham’s cultural scene.

Joyce Treasure and Suzi Osborn were among 25 applicants for Bruntwood-Grand Union’s artists-in-residence scheme designed to help kick start careers of young or emerging artists in Birmingham.

Starting in February 2019, Joyce and Suzi will occupy a new studio in the basement of Bruntwood’s Grade II-listed Cornwall Buildings on Newhall Street and will receive mentoring from Grand Union’s curatorial team and be invited to take part in wider Grand Union social and studio events.

Applications for the studio space generated responses from a diverse mix of artists who had studied around the world.

Suzi studied Fine Art at the University of Leeds and an MA in Sculpture at the acclaimed Slade School of Art in London. Her interest is in architecture and how developers and architects think about a city and she is currently looking at the Paradise Circus development, working on metallic shells that will become light fittings.

She said: “This is a great initiative. There is a massive lack of studio space in Birmingham and it’s difficult to find the capital to set up a studio.

“Bruntwood see art as something that’s important for a city because it can work as an attractor of people and artists as well as being a driver for the city – it’s about having a great strong cultural scene.”

Joyce Treasure is a mixed media artist who is also an undergraduate in Black Studies in Europe at Birmingham City University. Her focus is on diversity and the lack of black, female representation in the arts community. The residency will allow her to explore the multicultural nature of the city through a collection of portraits, craft, video art and podcast talks.

She said: “From the first meeting, Bruntwood’s enthusiasm for the arts was very evident. There is no way that a company of this size is not going to bring benefit to my career and they will be supporting me and be open to my work which makes me feel positive and optimistic.

“This initiative is about community speaking with business speaking with gallery spaces speaking with artists and I think it’s a great combination.”

Bruntwood operate in Birmingham and across the North of England and has a long term commitment to creating thriving cities and is a long standing supporter of arts and culture.

At the end of last year they chose Birmingham-based artist Joanne Masding, for her first permanent commission, Flimsy Signals, for the reception area of their redeveloped flagship Cornerblock building.

Grand Union provides access to spaces to support artists in the city and the Cornwall Buildings residency and studio space initiative complements its existing provision of 12 artists’ studios, the Modern Clay ceramics facility, as well as their Birmingham City University graduate scheme.

As well as finding and nurturing talent and creating networking opportunities for artists at different stages of their career, the Bruntwood-Grand Union partnership aims to increase artist collaborations and develop new sites of studio practice within the city centre. It will also offer opportunities for knowledge sharing and cultural interactions between business and arts communities.

Additionally it will provide different facilities currently unavailable to artists in the city, encourage experimentation, innovation and cross-fertilisation of ideas and good practice outside of conventional studio spaces and help to improve graduate retention in the city.

Rob Valentine, director of Bruntwood in Birmingham, said: “At Bruntwood we recognise that the arts and culture are key components to a city’s quality of life – they attract people to a city to live and to visit, help it to grow and let the world know what makes it tick.

“Birmingham is one the UK’s most diverse and vibrant places and unsurprisingly it has a booming arts and cultural scene.

“As the city approaches an unprecedented surge in interest and investment, it’s vital that art and culture is further supported and for us that means supporting the growth and development of the city’s talent and giving it the opportunity to flourish, make an impact and inspire others.”

Grand Union’s Collaborative Programme Curator, Jo Capper, said: “It’s important that the commercial sector and arts can work together for mutual benefit, it really helps to grow the city’s appeal.  As public funding for the arts has decreased in the last 5-10 years, support from the private sector has been invaluable for the continued growth and investment in culture in Birmingham.

“During this residency, Suzi will be working on a project which is capturing the surfaces of buildings as they are demolished and rebuilt, this is a really important legacy in terms of the city as its redeveloping and changing, capturing the moment before it’s lost. Joyce will be using the opportunity to develop a new body of work “Hymns” which looks to develop visionary narratives about being a mother, artist, woman and student in Birmingham.”

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