“We were keen to make the university a hub for culture in the Tees Valley,” says Graham Henderson, vice-chancellor of Teesside University. As a complement to its well-established Art on Campus programme designed to attract town as well as gown, the university decided to take over one of the region’s leading exhibition spaces, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (Mima).
A decade ago, as Henderson tells it, “the mayor of Middlesbrough took the brave decision to launch a modern art gallery here in the town”. It opened its doors in 2007 and brought together the Middlesbrough Art Gallery, the Cleveland Gallery – long responsible for a biennial international drawing competition (1973-96) – and the Cleveland Craft Centre. The last of these started with Middlesbrough’s pottery heritage and went on to develop major collections of 20th-century British studio ceramics and contemporary jewellery.
Mima’s main strengths lie in these two areas and in post-war drawing from the UK and the Americas. As time went on, however, pressures on local authority resources made Mima’s future look increasingly insecure. Options such as an independent trust were considered, but eventually Henderson and his team determined that “the best model would be if Mima were incorporated into the university”, predicting “many synergies if the two teams became one”.
The institute offers “a venue for business engagement and outward-facing activities” as well as for conferences and events linked to exhibitions. There are also plans to build courses around the collection in areas such as fashion and conservation. The School of Arts and Media has already doubled in size under its current dean, Gerda Roper, so there is plenty of scope for further expansion.
Mima officially became part of Teesside in September. It has long had an ambitious programme of temporary exhibitions in two separate galleries. Those currently on display focus on the designer Wendy Ramshaw and (in collaboration with Tate St Ives) on Modern Art and St Ives. Coming up in December is an exhibition of fine art by the film and television director David Lynch first seen in Los Angeles.
Last month the first permanent exhibition space opened, with the support of almost £300,000 from Arts Council England. This has allowed Mima to bring out of storage its complete collection of bold, eye-catching, witty and sometimes “pervy” contemporary jewellery. One of Kepa Karmona’s necklaces is made of concrete and shards of green glass. Caroline Broadhead’s bracelets look like spiderwebs into which one inserts a wrist. Sigurd Bronger’s brooches feature balloons, sponges and bars of soap. Other jewellery on display was created from plastic, Perspex or “found objects” an artist came across in the corridor outside her studio.
Last month also marked the arrival of Alistair Hudson, formerly deputy director of Grizedale Arts in Cumbria, as the new director of Mima. He welcomes the tie to the university, he says, not only because “it brings in a whole new user group” but also for “its research capacity and the backbone that allows us to be a little bit braver or more experimental”.
At the core of his vision is rethinking the balance between cutting-edge design, the international art circuit and the needs of local communities and the university. He hopes to return to “the early ambitions of modern art, which are about making art useful, art having a function in society, rather than just taking great art to people and saying: ‘This is good for you to understand’,” he says.
“Art is a very fundamental component to being creative generally, in business and in society,” Hudson adds. “Art is a mechanism that allows you to evolve and change.” Furthermore, companies such as Apple and Volkswagen owe much of their success to their aesthetic sense and “artful thinking”, so he is keen for Mima to keep exploring “what art can do in daily lives – for industry, for business, for well-being agendas, healthcare and education”.
In July 2014, the Arts Council announced funding of just over £500,000 for each of the next three financial years, giving Mima a firm footing from which to take such ideas forward.
Hudson says he is determined “to be involved with the university in rethinking aesthetics as being fundamental in how we reshape society. These are very big questions that somewhere like Mima should be addressing and advocating for.”
£500,000 funding for Mima from the Arts Council for each of the next three years
University of St Andrews
Scotland’s only female MEP has been appointed rector of the University of St Andrews. Labour politician Catherine Stihler, who was first elected to the European Parliament in 1999, is the second woman to hold the position, and succeeds the writer Alistair Moffat in the rector’s chair. Ms Stihler will be officially installed next year after the traditional “drag”, when students take the new rector on a six-hour tour of student halls and local pubs.
University of Bradford
The forthcoming 50th anniversary of the University of Bradford will be marked with 10 new chairs. The academics will be charged with spearheading the aim of the university – which received its Royal Charter in 1966 – to be a “world leader in cutting-edge research, knowledge transfer…and [production of] graduates who will make a difference”. They will focus on healthcare, engineering and manufacturing, and supporting sustainable societies.
University of Birmingham
A collaboration agreement with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has been signed by an English university. The University of Birmingham signed the deal with the JRC, the commission’s in-house science service, which provides the European Union with independent, evidence-based scientific and technical support. Birmingham said the pact would bring “an increased research power” and “the capacity to shape future research, policy and programmes at a European and international level”.
University of Roehampton
A PhD student is preparing to become the first person to row solo 3,000 nautical miles around Great Britain. Sarah Weldon, who has just started a doctorate at the University of Roehampton, will monitor her blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and mental condition throughout the 14-week journey and use the data to examine the stresses on the body caused by extreme endurance. The 38-year-old, who is aiming to retrace the route of Viking seafarers, is to set off in May 2015.
University of York
A spin-off company hopes to use computer modelling to make drug design quicker and more efficient. SimOmics, launched by the University of York, aims to use software to study the effects of new drugs on autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, removing the need for animal testing. The company’s first contract will involve it in a project to create a “virtual laboratory” to study the parasitic disease leishmaniasis.
University of Sheffield
A university has become the first in the UK to scrap library fines. Loans on books borrowed from the University of Sheffield’s libraries will be automatically renewed until someone else requests them. Students will be given two days to return them, and if they miss the deadline they will be barred from further borrowing until the books are returned.
London School of Economics
A new £25 million student centre has won a major design award. The Saw Swee Hock Student Centre – the first new building commissioned by the London School of Economics in more than 40 years – picked up the best education building at the Concrete Society Awards on 29 October. It was also a finalist for this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize.
Goldsmiths, University of London
Two computer scientists have released an album of jazz compositions written as part of research into creativity. Mark d’Inverno, professor of computing at Goldsmiths, University of London, worked with François Pachet, director of Sony Computer Science Laboratory, to record Count on It, which debuted at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club on 1 November. The pianist and guitarist alternated as creator and editor, filming composing sessions to examine the conditions required for creativity.