Leaving Arts Catalyst after 25 years

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black balloon, person suspended, white desert, blue sky

In April I left Arts Catalyst, the organisation I founded 25 years ago, to take up my new post as Director/CEO of FACT – the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology – in Liverpool.

I have left my much-loved Arts Catalyst in the best hands possible. Claudia Lastra, our executive director, is a capable and committed leader, and she is supported by an incredibly talented, dedicated and hard-working team. Currently, Arts Catalyst is advertising for a new Artistic Director/CEO to help take the organisation forward into its exciting future as it relocates to what will be its new home in Sheffield.

I look back at the last 25 years as the founding Artistic Director of Arts Catalyst with enormous pride. At the generation of artists, curators, scientists and creative people – so many amazing, talented people – who have defined Arts Catalyst and created with us a vision of art that engages with science and technology and crosses disciplines, cultures and boundaries. At our commissions and projects, a huge archive of work, the dusty corners of which I still love to explore and discuss, which has been made possible by the audacity, ambition and vision of astonishing artists. At my colleagues over the many years who have encouraged and enabled these visions – staff, trustees, associate curators. And at our incredible constituency of collaborators, participants, audiences and supporters.

Arts Catalyst projects have taken us to all seven continents and on some of the craziest adventures. We have flown with Russian cosmonauts in zero gravity, dressed eminent Natural History Museum entomologists as giant insects, traveled to the radioactive lands of Hanford in the US and Fukushima in Japan, landed a silver ship in the Scottish highlands, launched a chair into space, built a 66-foot rocket from industrial junk, made films for chimpanzees and music for dolphins, re-created biowarfare experiments off the Isle of Lewis, and designed medialabs and sensor networks with Arctic communities. The artworks created, the scientific research initiated, the communities and publics engaged in research and new ideas, have all spun from these process-centred endeavours. In this quarter century, we have commissioned well over 170 artists, produced perhaps 60 or 70 exhibitions, and collaborated with many world-leading art and science organisations.

Arts Catalyst has been most of my adult life. It has been hard work, certainly, but I have had such fun. I am so grateful to you all for this gift, which I pass on with joy to the next generation. They are at the helm now and I’m excited to see what new oceans they will explore!

I am now four weeks into my new job at FACT and there are new adventures ahead!

Image: Nicola Triscott flies Tomás Saraceno’s Aerocene, pilot launch at White Sands Desert, 2015. Courtesy: the artist. Photo: Studio Tomás Saraceno © 2015

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