The Award for Civic Arts Organisations

The second edition of the Award for Civic Arts Organisations showcased how arts organisations across the UK are rethinking relationships with the communities they serve and using the transformational power of art for individual and societal change. The Art House was the main recipient, receiving £100,000, and In Place of War CIO and Project Art Works each received £25,000.


The Award for Civic Arts Organisations is an initiative launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) in partnership with King’s College London to celebrate arts organisations committed to putting civic and community engagement at the heart of their work during and beyond challenging times. The second edition sought to shine a spotlight on how arts organisations are emerging from a period which has affected every individual and community, disrupted business models, and accelerated many existing trends in the art world as in society. Selected by a distinguished independent panel, chaired by Baroness Deborah Bull, the Award recipients were announced on 23 March 2022. The Art House was the main recipient, receiving £100,000; while In Place of War and Project Art Works each received £25,000.



Celebrating the Shortlist and Recipients

The recipients were chosen  from over 200 high-quality applications from all across the UK for their outstanding capacity to adapt to the pandemic and for how they have all deepened their commitment to their communities over the past two years. They were announced in a virtual event that celebrated the work of the ten shortlisted organisations.

This accompanying case studies publication shares the inspiring stories of the shortlist, and describes the wider movement of civic arts organisations in the UK.


The Art House

Young people helping to plant The Art House’s Pick Your Own Urban Orchard. Photo by David Lindsay.

Based in Wakefield, The Art House receives the main Award of £100,000 for its agility in responding to the needs of its local community and putting co-creation at the centre of its work in Wakefield, has created the first studio sanctuary for asylum seekers in the UK. Its Makey Wakey programme has provided free interim spaces to artists and creative businesses. This has contributed to bringing down the barriers between their creative programme and their community work. Art House continue to look after artists and community groups through grants, activity packs and wider social programmes. 


In Place of War

Breaking dance programme in Uganda

Based in Salford, In Place of War receives a £25,000 Award for the ability to bring its experience of working in the Global South to the UK in addressing the issues of asylum and conflict. The organisation enables change-makers to work in conflict zones across the world, inspiring hope and developing skills and creativity. During the pandemic, it  has worked with 12 grassroots community organisations in the UK to find 100 Agents of Change. The project has involved refugees, asylum seekers, people living in poverty and LGBTQI+ communities and resulted in 100 young people connecting with artists and activists around the world to share their experiences, skills and knowledge. 


Project Art Works

Studio B in August 2020.

Based in Hastings, Project Art Works receives a £25,000 Award for championing diversity and providing a platform for people and issues that are often insufficiently recognised. Throughout the pandemic, this collective of neurodivergent artists and activists reimagined how it wanted to engage with its community and how best to help those with complex support needs. The organisation created a digital platform for their communities to participate in creative work from their homes, using tools such as letters, video conferencing and the exchanging of objects to maintain the important connection they had with the organisation. 


About the shortlist Case studies publication




The Foundation has a long-standing history of support for the arts and, alongside King’s College London, is committed to promoting the ‘civic role’ of arts organisations. Our Rethinking Relationships report, published in 2018, shows that arts organisations can embrace their ‘civic role’ in many different ways. The Foundation is committed to helping create the conditions in which every arts organisation receiving regular public subsidy can acknowledge its civic role in ways that are meaningful to the context in which they operate and to the communities each serves.

The experience of the last two years, though immensely challenging for individuals and organisations, has affirmed the value and importance of arts organisations embracing their civic role. Factors for success include clarity of purpose (why an organisation exists and for whom) and the agility to respond to changing external demands in which relevance and organisational commitment to inclusivity are tested.

Some 260 organisations submitted applications for the first Award in 2020. Together, these constitute a rich tapestry of imaginative and humanitarian responses to heightened levels of need. As a snapshot, it paints a picture that is favourable and attractive – a cultural sector open to change and resilient when connected to the community – at odds with the less compelling narrative of a sector in stasis, doors shut and closed for business.

‘The award has supported us to ignite more creativity and opportunities with our community. As part of panel for the second edition of the Award for Civic Arts Organisations, I am glad to be able to offer real hope, support and recognition to arts organisations that have been listening, trusting and innovating with their communities during a period of extreme complexity. I am hoping we can all learn from their stories, ideas and transformations and that this will help shape and inform the way ahead for everyone.’

Mark Williams, CEO/Artistic Director of Heart n Soul, main recipient of the 2021 Award




In this second edition of the Award, we are particularly interested in how arts organisations are emerging from the recent constraint and disruption. We want to focus on how arts organisations are changing and how they are now embedding learning into their future plans as they interpret what it means to take their civic role seriously. We aim to reward the outstanding practice of some organisations and encourage many others to rethink their own relationships with the communities they serve. In highlighting a few organisations, whose practice our selection panel believes to be exceptional, the Award seeks to incentivise the wider sector to make the fulfilment of a civic role a common key priority. This initiative follows in the footsteps of the Museum Award of the Year, initially incubated by the Foundation for five years and managed by the Art Fund since 2007, which has impactfully raised the standards across the whole sector.

There are many competing pressures for support from trusts and foundations like ours. The Foundation prioritises helping create a future within which all arts organisations can embrace their civic role and serve their communities as best they can. Our vision is that arts organisations have high, long-term ambitions of themselves in which they play a part in sustaining a thriving, connected society, both in bad times and good. We believe that an arts and culture sector which is fulfilling its civic role is one that deserves on-going support, including public subsidy.



The Panel

An independent panel of judges proposes the Award recipients.

Baroness Bull (Deborah Bull), Vice President (Communities & National Engagement) and Senior Advisory Fellow for Culture, King’s College London

Sukhy Johal MBE, Director of the Centre for Culture & Creativity, University of Lincoln
Amanda Parker, Founder and Chief Executive, Inc Arts
Briana Pegado, Co-Director, We Are Here Scotland
Isabelle Schwarz, Head of Public Policy, European Cultural Foundation
Devinda de Silva, Head of Collaboration, National Theatre of Wales
Mark Williams MBE, CEO/Artistic Director, Heart n Soul (main recipient of 2021 Award)

Meet the panel




Applicants are asked to submit one short video (max. 4 minutes) to answer the four questions listed on the application form on Zealous. Alternatively, separate short written statements (max. 200 words) in answer to each of the questions is also acceptable. This information is used to select the shortlisted organisations. 

In January, 10 shortlisted organisations are invited to meet the panel (on Zoom) and present expanded answers to the four questions (not more than 30 mins). The panel recommends three recipients, one that receives £100,000 and two that receive £25,000 each, subject to due diligence and ratification by the Board.

This edition has now come to an end and the recipients of this year's Award were announced online on 23 March. The information above remains available for reference.

There is one award of £100,000 and two further awards of £25,000. The funding for all three awards is provided by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch).

The Foundation reserves the right to redistribute the funds in response to applications received.

The award will allow the recipient to continue its important and impactful work with its communities, in line with their organisation’s mission and plans outlined in their presentation. Applicants can explain how the Award money would contribute to embedding and sharing learning for wider benefit in answer to the application questions.

Case studies of the shortlisted organisations will be written by students from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at King’s College London. These profiles will be promoted by the Foundation and King’s as exemplary responses to the pandemic and be featured on the Foundation’s website.

King’s College London is the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s academic partner to deliver the Award.

Both organisations share a mutual desire to celebrate the civic role that arts organisations play in their communities, particularly at this time of crisis. They wish to encourage and inspire other arts organisations to examine their own civic role and what it could look like. King’s and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) are aligned in having made firm commitments to their respective civic strategies and have collaborated in the past on the topic of civic arts.

Ten students from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities will have the opportunity to participate in the project.  This is a central aspect of the project, and brings younger voices into the process, whilst providing research depth in the form of case studies of the participating organisations, and professional development opportunities for the students.

The Award recipients will be proposed by an independent panel of judges. The panel is chaired by Baroness Bull (Deborah Bull), Vice President (Communities & National Engagement) and Senior Advisory Fellow for Culture, King’s College London.

The other panellists are: Sukhy Johal, Director of the Centre for Culture & Creativity, University of Lincoln, Chair, West Midlands Arts Council, Trustee, Arts Council; Amanda Parker, Founder and Chief Executive, Inc Arts; Briana Pegado, Co-Director, We Are Here Scotland; Isabelle Schwarz, Head of Public Policy, European Cultural Foundation; Devinda de Silva, Head of Collaboration, National Theatre of Wales; Mark Williams, CEO and Artistic Director, Heart n Soul (recipients of the 2021 Award).

You can read the biographies of the panel members here. The panel's final recommendations will be presented to the Board of the Foundation for ratification.

Unfortunately, due to the expected volume of applications we will be unable to give personalised feedback until applicants reach the shortlisted stage.

Arts organisations are institutions with a primary purpose of working in the arts or culture of any form. These could be, for example, orchestras, galleries, museums, theatres, or organisations that work in a variety of art forms. No preference is given for the type of art created: the focus is on how the arts organisation has been responding with its community.

This award is only open to arts organisations that receive public funding. Public funding is money received from tax-payer funded government entities such as national Arts Councils or local authorities. The award is also open to organisations which receive a mix of public funding as well as earned revenue, donations and private funding.

The Foundation is working to advance the civic role that is played by arts organisations in receipt of public funding. It believes that the sector-wide change that needs to happen to allow this movement to grow is best directed at arts organisations, who receive funding from the taxpayer and make decisions about how it is spent. The Foundation recognises the vital role that freelancers and artists play in the sector, which is why we support other initiatives such as the Culture Reset programme.

You can read more about last year's edition and award recipients here.

Updated on 05 april 2022

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