Reading School of Art collaborated with local artistic partners and Reading Borough Council to launch Reading International, a visual arts organisation aimed at engaging the local community in contemporary art.
Led by Reading School of Art, and funded by the Arts Council of England’s Ambition for Excellence Programme, Reading International strives to engage people of all ages in current debates around contemporary art through creative collaborations with local organisations, such as Jelly, Reading Museum and the Museum of English Rural Life.
The organisation invites international artists and curators to create new work in response to the unique social and historical context of the town, University and wider county. Hosting and commissioning major solo exhibitions, group shows, performances, film screenings, workshops and temporary public artworks, Reading’s art students are highly involved in the organisation’s wider engagement.
Reading International has generated creative connections with a range of international art institutions as well as local community groups, schools and children. As fine art student, Kate Pike, highlights, the projects that the organisation facilitates are invaluable for those both within and outside the University.
“The projects have helped me to build opportunities and networks that I would not be able to create on my own. It’s exciting to be part of – and to help deliver – these contextually relevant art projects. They help me with my own research and art-making, and it means that I’m part of a wider discussion on contemporary art.
“Reading International has improved the arts and culture in Reading and becomes a catalyst for other events and projects.”
Reading International has put on a wide range of exhibitions, performances and talks in collaboration with various local partners. A notable example of this partnership and of student involvement, was The Critic As Artist exhibition held at Reading Museum, focusing on the life and writings of dramatist Oscar Wilde.
The exhibition saw Reading art students perform their favourite Wilde texts as a part of an ongoing installation by artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz to engage local audiences. Students not only got to expose art to the local community, but developed their own creative and artistic skills as part of the process, something which Director, Professor Susannne Clausen, celebrates the organisation for:
“With Reading International, we are testing new forms of co-operation between artists, curators, students, academics and other arts organisations.
“We are looking at innovative and progressive ways for us, as an art school, to define ourselves both as leaders of art production and exhibition-making, as well as a new hub for connecting with art audiences. We are keen for our students not only to understand how to develop their skills and knowledge as artists, but also to really understand how to engage with the professional art world.”
Reading International also partners with Reading School of Art’s widening participation initiative, ArtLab, by involving local schoolchildren in artistic projects, such as asking what the words “Reading” and “international” mean to them. Through this collaboration, the University can highlight how important art can be to the community in addressing local and global problems.
Currently, Reading International is running an exhibition called The Sound of Words by Helen Cammock – a series of 12 billboard posters on display in Crown Street which try to address the diverse interpretations of what “community” means, and what people understand by it today.
As we can see from these artistic showcases, Reading International is doing great things to engage the local community in art and foster creative collaborations with artistic partners.
It also places high value on enabling Reading’s students to get involved with local projects and make a difference to the community in which they live. The visual arts organisation was awarded Best Cultural Organisation of the Year at the 2019 Reading Cultural Awards, showing how important Reading International is in the local area.
In the future, Reading International wishes to continue its vital work of engaging the local community with truly international art, keeping Reading students as involved as possible in the art world outside of their own studios.
Find out more about Reading International and their current exhibitions.