The Bard by John Martin, which is planned to feature in the Newcastle part of the project. Courtesy HLF
A major four-year Olympic project led by Tyne and Wear Museums (TWM) has been given a boost by the announcement of an earmarked £1.2m of lottery funding.
The project, called Imagine a Nation, will explore what it means to be British in the 21st century and will feature exhibitions, events and educational activities in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics as well as a special presentation at Tate Britain during the games themselves.
It will include four exhibitions at venues across the country taking 500 years of British art to people of all ages and backgrounds, and aims to give new insights and access to the country’s long and rich artistic heritage.
Tessa Jowell MP, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and now Minister for the Olympics, said last week: “Imagine a Nation is a unique opportunity to explore what Britishness and identity mean in the 21st century.”
It is hoped that the project will engage young people in British art and history. The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin.
“Taking 500 years of outstanding British art from national and regional museums gives an unprecedented perspective on our culture across time and across the country. Brought together in Tate Britain in 2012 it will give Olympics visitors from home and overseas a unique vision of our nation.”
Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery plan to stage an exhibition on Northumberland-born 19th century artist John Martin, whose large-scale oil paintings of apocalyptic scenes have resonance in today’s world of international terrorism and globalisation.
London’s Tate Britain will host a display of watercolour painting, a quintessentially ‘British’ medium, which will be explored from a multicultural perspective.
An exhibition on families in Norwich is set to look at how they have changed along with the regional, cultural, ethnic and economic diversity of Britain in the last 500 years.
Imagine a Nation will feature a special presentation at Tate Britain during the 2012 Olympics. © Tate
Sheffield’s Restless Times display will focus on art from the first half of the 20th century, a time of great political, social and international upheaval.
A Heritage Lottery Fund Stage One Pass has been awarded to TWM for the project, which means the funds have been set aside and will be granted pending a successful fully developed Stage Two application.
As well as the exhibitions, wide-reaching school activities like storytelling, drama, crafts and history are planned, giving pupils the chance to work with professional artists and performers. It also hopes to reach out to young people who do not normally take part in art and history activities.
Alec Coles, Director of TWM, said: “The aim of this project is to use museums’ world class collections to engage a wide audience with their British heritage. It is fantastic that these four venues have been chosen to be a key part in exploring Britishness, especially in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics.”