2 November 2020

CGF and King’s College London launch The Award for Civic Arts Organisations

Offering one award of £100,000 and two of £25,000, the Award for Civic Arts Organisations aims to shine a spotlight on the vital role that arts organisations play in society

Today, 2nd November, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch), in partnership with King’s College London, open submissions for a new award that celebrates the civic role of arts organisations in society.

2020 has been a challenging year, with COVID-19 bringing devastation but also an opportunity for reset in how we live our lives and how communities operate. Offering one award of £100,000 and two of £25,000 the Award for Civic Arts Organisations aims to shine a light on how publicly funded arts bodies have responded to the pandemic, despite the hardships they face themselves as institutions.

The award is funded by the Foundation, with King’s College London as the academic partner to deliver the award, involving students from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. Baroness Bull (Deborah Bull), Vice President & Principal (London) and Senior Advisory Fellow for Culture at King’s College London will chair the judging panel. The other panellists are: David Bryan, Fiona Doring, Henrietta Imoreh, Anisa Morridadi, Jo Verrent and André Wilkens. 

Putting the community first

Despite the considerable uncertainty that the arts sector faces, ‘green shoots’ have been emerging. Arts organisations across the country have channelled the anxieties of this period and boldly reimagined their missions to put their communities first. Some are using the arts and creativity to forge connections and lift spirits, others have focused on digital co-creation. Some have forged new partnerships, working with existing networks to deliver arts packs with food parcels, connect with the vulnerable and use arts activities to combat loneliness. As we emerge into the ‘new normal’, arts organisations are helping shape the future: culture, creativity and the arts are manifesting stories that enable us to realise what it means to be fully human, individually and collectively.

Celebrating civic responses to the pandemic

However, much of this pioneering work is unknown, even within the arts sector itself.  This award seeks to change that. It will highlight and celebrate civic arts organisations and their response to the pandemic, with funding and further support to continue their work and share learning. The award will shine a spotlight on the vital role that arts organisations play in sustaining a thriving, creative, and connected society, particularly during challenging times.

This award builds on the growing movement of arts organisations reflecting on their relationship with society. The Foundation’s Rethinking Relationships report demonstrated the need for arts organisations to work more closely with their communities if they are to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. At this difficult time, this principle feels even more important.

The award is open to publicly funded arts organisations across the cultural spectrum, from orchestras to museums and galleries to theatres and those working cross art form. Submissions open today and a shortlist will be announced in early January, with the three awardees to be announced in March 2021.

Strengthening the arts and cultural sector

The Award is part of a suite of initiatives being supported by the Foundation as part of its response to the pandemic. As a small operation in the UK, it is not well-placed to provide emergency support. Instead, it has been investing in strengthening the arts and cultural sector to respond to urgent community needs, prioritise relevance, and become more inclusive and impactful. Informed by the success of the Foundation’s Museum Prize (now Museum of the Year) and its influence on the arts sector, the Foundation hopes this Award will complement the emergency funding provided by other arts funders.

Andrew Barnett, director of the UK branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, says:

“In this time of crisis, which has been described as Britain’s greatest peacetime challenge, arts organisations have responded in their communities in a variety of meaningful and inspiring ways. We created this award to recognise and celebrate this important and ongoing work; it is part of a suite of initiatives being supported by the Foundation in response to the pandemic. We are delighted to be partnering with King’s College London, including seeing Baroness Bull chair the judging panel, as it has an exceptional reputation in the field of culture and community.”

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