The region in which Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (Mima) is situated has very little arts infrastructure. It is a region with high poverty, high unemployment and very low life expectancy – where the art gallery is based, the average life expectancy is 54 year’s old. It was a risk to put an international contemporary art gallery in an area with such challenges. Kate Brindley, then Director of Mima spoke about the organisation with a view to offering delegates some encouragement, ideas and some hope.
Driven by my belief it is only through this active dialogue and active participation with audiences that we can really be embraced by our communities and that we will win their trust. It really has taken a lot of time and commitment – we were the new institution on the block, occupying the middle of their town – so we needed to build trust. And it’s really important in building trust that you let people have a say, that their voices are heard and also that you meet some of their needs. One of the ways we’ve don’t this is by running workshops about skills. People are really interested in learning how to draw and we are a Centre of Excellence for Drawing – we collect drawing and promote drawing as a fundamental part of our practice. Every week we run drawing classes which you may think is an old fashioned thing for an international art gallery to do but it is something that community wants and loves. We try to do it a bit differently and offer life drawing classes ‘with a twist’.