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Two new art projects offer voice to Middlesbrough’s migrants

1 June 2016

This month sees the launch of two new projects commissioned by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) as part of its pledge to support art and social practice in Teesside.

The Coffee House, a mobile unit for ceramic production led by local artist Emily Hesse, and a film by Newcastle-based artist Isabel Lima addressing the experience of displacement of many Middlesbrough-based inhabitants are two of the latest works being created as part of mima’s Creative Community Programme (CCP).

Establishing the first pottery in Teesside since the nineteenth century, The Coffee House is inspired by the Eritrean coffee ceremony and the refugee community’s need for objects both functional and spiritual. This workspace plays host to a range of activities aimed at encouraging those affected by displacement to share their experiences.

In a series of workshops to be held in the workspace, Middlesbrough-based asylum seekers and refugees are invited, along with other Teesside residents, to make ceremonial vessels which will be used by the participants in ‘coffee ceremonies’ later this month.

Also being presented this month is Isabel Lima’s Broken Chords Can Sing a Little – Episode 1: The Birds, a film that combines interviews with members of refugee-background groups, charity workers and politicians with scenes of a classical Greek comedy acted by some of these individuals to explore the feelings, memories, anxieties and aspirations of Middlesbrough-based asylum seekers and refugees.

Senior curator Miguel Amado said: “These projects are examples of art being used as a tool to bring people together and get inspired to breathe new life into Teesside’s tradition of making as well as to start conversations about social issues relevant both in Middlesbrough and internationally.

“As a key civic institution in the town, we want to contribute to the development of a critical and socially conscious creative community which can make a significant and dynamic contribution to economic regeneration, politics and cultural identity. By empowering the local art sector, we aim to give artists and collectives the platform to grow and, in turn, influence social change.”

Key objectives of CCP include stimulating discussion about current topical; linking local creative practitioners to national debates and practices; establishing collaborations between local and international artists; mentoring local artists and curators through training; funding activities carried out by local art organisations and charities; and nurturing local talent.

Both projects tie into the upcoming exhibition, If All Relationships Were to Reach Equilibrium, Then This Building Would Dissolve, which explores the subject of migration on Teesside and elsewhere, bringing together documents, artefacts and artworks made by Middlesbrough-based asylum seekers and refugees as well as British and international artists. Find out more.

Artist Emily Hesse, New Linthorpe

Artist Emily Hesse, New Linthorpe


The cast of Isabel Lima’s Broken Chords Can Sing a Little – Episode 1: The Birds

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