LGBTQ+ symposium at Cartwright Hall

Jill, our Curator of Fine Arts agreed to write a post for us discussing the LGBTQ+ symposium we put on last month.

She writes


Photo credit: Jamie Fletcher. Still image from ‘Queer as in Queer’.
Photo credit: Jamie Fletcher. Still image from ‘Queer as in Queer’.

Last month we invited anyone interested in LGBT+ art and culture to join us at Cartwright Hall for a one-day symposium of talks. The purpose was threefold: to hear from six fantastic art industry professionals, to initiate a working relationship with them, and to begin a dialogue with people from across our local LGBT+ communities.

After a passionate introduction from Bradford Council’s LGBT+ champion, Councillor Richard Dunbar, the day kicked off with Jude Woods. Jude has many strings to her bow including experience of working with museum collections, and for us she facilitated a Queer interpretation of two paintings we have on display. By talking about how she considered the pictures to relate to Queer culture and asking people what it made them think or feel it really opened up a completely different description and interpretation to the standard label information. It made me realise we could offer visitors a richer interpretation of artworks by also providing an alternative label text. This is something with a low cost that we could try quite easily.

Charlotte Keenan MacDonald from National Museums Liverpool was up next speaking from the perspective of a curator of British Art and gave us an art historical context referencing Bradford’s most famous and also gay artist, David Hockney. With a well-established Homotopia festival in Liverpool they have experience of engaging LGBT+ audiences and they are actively acquiring the work of LGBT+ artists.

The remaining speakers were practising artists: Nadim Choudry, Phil Sayers, Jez Dolan and Debbie Sharp, each spoke to us about their own art, and in the case of Phil and Jez, this also included work they have done or are doing with museum collections. I really like and respect the work of each of these artists and we are planning to explore ideas of how we can work together in the future. I am particularly keen on working with contemporary artists and museum collections as I think you get interesting and new perspectives on historical objects and artworks this way which keeps the gallery displays fresh and communicates in a broader variety of ways to a broader variety of people.

Debbie concluded the artist talks with a short performance that no written description could really do justice to. Needless to say we were all completely captivated. When she stopped you could have heard a pin drop, it was a great way to end.

Before everyone went their separate ways we invited comments about the day and contributions on what people would like to see in the future. One common feeling among the artists was that they have been particularly popular this year as museums have sought to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial-decriminalization of homosexuality, but what happens next year? Does it all stop? For our part, in Bradford Museums we consider our engagement with LGBT+ art and culture just to be beginning. We made lots of new contacts and got lots of ideas that day. We established there is interest from our audience and a role we can play. We also recognised this event didn’t include people who work as it was held on a weekday day time, or young people who were noticeably absent. So there is much we can do which I’m looking forward to.

If you are interested in LGBT+ art and culture and have any particular artists or areas of history you would be interested in seeing more of (at any of the Bradford Museum sites) send an email to [email protected] and mark them ‘for attention of Jill’.

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