Extended deal for contemporary art in the nation’s forests

Boy turning key on tree

Extended deal for contemporary art in the nation’s forests On 8 October 2021

Arts Council England and Forestry England have embarked on a revitalised partnership to bring contemporary arts and new audiences to the nation’s forests.

Begun in 2012, the new extended five-year agreement from 2021-2026 will bring more ambitious contemporary artworks from emerging and established artists to forests across England, with a strong focus on climate, environment, biodiversity and peoples’ connection to nature. The partnership is based on a shared belief that art and culture can bring people from all backgrounds together and teach us about how to care for the environment.

Since 1968 Forestry England has pioneered arts initiatives across artforms, across the nation’s forests with temporary and permanent installations ranging from sculpture trails to virtual reality.

The partnership will be signed at Forestry England’s Grizedale forest, a key location that highlights Forestry England’s historic relationship with the arts. British sculpturer, David Nash helped to give Grizedale its name of Forest for Sculpture back in the 1970s when he was one of the first artists in residence funded by the Arts Council. Since then, over 200 artworks have been created in Grizedale forest alone; the current collection includes seminal works by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Harris, Sally Matthews and Greyworld.

Building on the success of the previous two Memoranda of Understanding, the new agreement supports the ambition of both organisations to address climate and environmental issues in the context of art and cultural production.

Mariam Zulfiqar, Contemporary Arts Manager, Forestry England says:

“Success from our previous partnerships with Arts Council England shows that woodlands and forests are a vital place for audiences to engage with art. Now more than ever we need artists to be able to connect with scientists, researchers and experts working in forestry and our future programme will create conditions for this exchange to take place. As experts in forestry at the forefront of climate change and biodiversity issues we have an important role to play in supporting artists understand and address the complexity of the issues we face as a society.

“Over the next five years we will focus on themes such as climate, people’s connection to nature and biodiversity and we are open to discussions with organisations and individuals who also want to focus on these areas. We look forward to collaborating on projects that create challenging, thought-provoking artworks that generate fulfilling experiences”

“We see our arts programme as an integral way to connect audiences with these priorities and together with Arts Council England, we believe that art and culture inspire us, bring us together and teach us about the world around us, including how to care more for the environment.

Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Arts Council England said:

“This partnership will help ambitious new creative projects to blossom in our wonderful woodlands all over England. Visitors to our forests will be inspired by the ingenuity and imagination of artists as they encounter art in magnificent natural settings. Right now, we’re focusing on the importance of caring for our natural environment, so there’s no more important time to highlight the relationship between artists and the natural world”.

The full Memorandum of Understanding will be published on the Arts Council’s website on Friday 8 October (www.artscouncil.org.uk).

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Notes to editor

1. Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with over 296 million visits per year. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. For more information visit forestryengland.uk. Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.

2. Successes of Forestry England Arts programme include Writers in the forest, a national call out for two residency opportunities during Forestry England’s centenary year to tell the story of our forests. Following a high volume and exceptional standard of applications Zakiya Mckenzie and Tiffany Francis-Baker spent the year producing work inspired by following expert foresters and rangers at work to hearing from world-class scientists; and In the Eyes of the Animal a 360 News release degree virtual reality experience created specifically for the forest through a partnership with Abandon Normal Devices, an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. Created by immersive experience studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, who delight in exploring the line between virtual and real-world experiences, In the Eyes of the Animal has toured internationally including to the New Frontier programme at Sundance Film Festival 2016.

3. Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. www.artscouncil.org.uk.

4. Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council developed a £160 million Emergency Response Package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support. We are also one of the bodies administering the Government’s unprecedented £1.96 billion Culture Recovery Funds. Find out more at www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19.

Media contact

Forestry England Press Office e: media@forestryengland.uk