Search launched for two Sunderland artists to take up £15,000 residency

Mark Burns Cassell outside of 31 Norfolk Street studios
Mark Burns Cassell outside of 31 Norfolk Street studios
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The hunt has begun to find two Sunderland artists to take up a rare opportunity for free studio space and paid work as part of an Arts Council-funded residency.

Vincent Todd from EMC Arts, in collaboration with new artists’ studio 31 Norfolk Street, in Sunniside, has won £15,000 worth of funding to provide studio space for the artists and makers for nine months, as well as 200 hours of paid work to each produce a sculpture installation responding to Sunderland’s history as a maker of pottery.

Studio owner Mark Burns Cassell, who runs his own MBC Ceramics business, hopes the funding will foster home-grown artistic talent.

He explained: “We recognise that Sunderland is under-represented in arts and culture and we’re trying to do something about that. This is an amazing opportunity for the artists and we hope it will be very popular.

“It’s not very often that artistic opportunities like this come along as a lot of artists’ residencies offer subsidised studio space so the artist has to pay something. But this is actually a paid residency and when they are not working on the sculpture installation they can use the studios to work on their own pieces.”

As well as paying the rent on the two large, brand new studios, which have been created in the recently renovated 31 Norfolk Street, the money will go towards materials and paying the artists to create a piece of artwork inspired by the city’s rich pottery history.

Mark said: “Sunderland is famous for three things: shipbuilding, glass and pottery. Sunderland Pottery sold all over the world and at the time was very forward thinking and very striking. A lot of it was pink and gold and drew on the significance of Sunderland as a port town, so often featured shanties and pictures of bridges. It was very popular in the early Victorian period.”

The successful applicants will be required to investigate and research the history of Sunderland Pottery and create a contemporary response of their choosing to the legacy of the ceramics.

Sunderland Culture have also offered their support in kind to the residents, while tutors from Sunderland University will sit on the panel to interview the applicants. Mark will also be offering them advice on how to turn their skills into a business.

Mark said: “The only stipulation is that they have to be studying in Sunderland or have some connection to the city. Other than that anyone of any age can apply. They can be a maker or creator in any field, such as graphic design, furniture maker, pottery or painting, just some kind of creative craft.”

The application form for the residencies will be made available on the MBC Ceramics Facebook page from September 3.

Mark opened 31 Norfolk Street earlier this year where, as well as creating his own pottery, he provides studio space for other arts groups and offers free workshops to members of the public in ceramics, batik, life drawing and more.