Coventry Creates: Developing impact through artist-researcher collaboration
During spring 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, the University of Warwick and Coventry University Partnership recognised that the cultural industries faced venue closures, job loss and funding withdrawal.
In response to the anticipated damage to the cultural industries, the University Partnership designed and funded a new project to support both local artists and university researchers, bringing new perspectives and new audiences to academic work.Coventry Creates financially supported artists during the early stages of the pandemic, with the scheme funding work for those in the stricken cultural sector. Coventry Creates projects encouraged participants to approach their art and research in different ways, including developing new collaborative ways of working.
After a city-wide call out that attracted applications from more than 100 artists, Coventry Creates paired Coventry-based artists with researchers from the two universities to create collaborative art and research projects. In total, 18 projects were funded as part of the programme. The project outputs were housed in a digital exhibition, launched in September 2020.
As well as providing new modes and sources of work for local artists, Coventry Creates was designed as a way of increasing the impact of academic research through new and creative interpretations, and by bringing it to new audiences. To assess the project’s success, Professor Jacqueline Hodgson was awarded an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account grant to fund an evaluation of Coventry Creates. The results of this analysis, together with a round table event involving artists and researchers, will also lead to the production of training materials to support future researcher-artist collaborations.
Impact and evaluation
To evaluate the success of artist-researcher collaboration on artist participants, interviews were carried out from August 2020 – March 2021.
Overall, interviewees expressed a positive sentiment towards Coventry Creates and gave fascinating insights into the impacts of the programme - from providing new opportunities to present their work, to the development of new skills and practices for artists and researchers.
Participants successfully supported one another to develop their communications for new audiences and contexts.
Whilst initially conceived as project to strengthen the impact of researchers’ work, it quickly transpired that impact was being created in both directions. Artists appreciated the profiling of their work to new audiences, as well as the project's contribution to arts and culture more broadly.
Researchers gained new insights into the significance of their work and how it may be presented and experienced in unexpected ways.
Looking to the future: Coventry Creates 2021
Arts Council England has awarded funding for the second round of Coventry Creates projects. The funding call, which closes on 30 June 2021, will build on the learning gained during the initial iteration to develop enhanced opportunities for relationship development and networking, and skills training.
The evaluation of Coventry Creates 2020 was made possible thanks to funding from the University of Warwick's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account ES/T502054/1.