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Sunderland Culture

Sunderland Culture is a new organisation created to bring together some of Sunderland’s most important cultural assets and activities and realise the ambition of a city brimming with creative potential.

The organisation brings together the investment of the three main funders of arts provision in the city, University of Sunderland, Sunderland City Council, and Music, Arts & Culture Trust into a single, independent, and resilient delivery model. In 2018 we became an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

This exciting partnership provides opportunities for all of our students and graduates, across its entire range of activities and venues, including National Glass Centre, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Arts Centre Washington and The Fire Station, as well as cross-city programmes including Sunderland Stages and our Great Place programme.


New Sunderland Culture logo


Our best days are yet to come 

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme.

It's an exciting time to be in Sunderland as the city drives forward the Twenty Four Seven programme, an ambitious £60m project running to 2024, which will see new venues, pop-up galleries and creative workspaces opening in the city centre, alongside a city-wide programme of events. Students will benefit from a lively and varied programme of arts and cultural activities throughout their time at the University.

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So how does Sunderland Culture benefit University of Sunderland students?

There are often opportunities for students to get first-hand experience linked to the programme delivered in venues or across the city:

Our Art and Design students were recently given the opportunity to present their thoughts on an exhibition of drawings from the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci, as part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. Sunderland was one of only 12 UK venues chosen to host the exhibition, 'A Life in Drawing', which featured a total of 144 of Leonardo’s drawings from the Royal Collection Trust.

“We were asked to respond to the drawings and think about what Leonardo would be doing now and what he would be thinking about if he was alive today and had access to the capabilities and opportunities presented by the University’s FabLab,” said MA Design student Heather Chambers, from Manchester.

The city has also recently been chosen to host artwork from the acclaimed Arts Council Collection. Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens will be one of only three galleries nationwide to present work from the Arts Council Collection, which will exhibit work by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, and Gillian Wearing over a three-year period.

As well as connecting students to the programme, many of the University’s lecturers are also regularly exhibited in Sunderland Culture venues or commissioned within its programme.

In 2019, the University's own Senior Lecturer in Photography, Craig Ames, hosted a new exhibition called 'Kill Zones' at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.

Craig served in the British Army for three years, where he was an Evidence Photographer alongside his role as a combat soldier. The exhibition was a series of photographic works of ‘Mil-Sim’ (military simulation) gameplay arenas in the UK. Mil-Sim players try to create authentic combat experiences, based on recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is achieved by the use of highly detailed replica weapons, wearing authentic military uniforms and employing standard military tactics.

Craig explained: “Kill Zones explores Mil-Sim’s fluidic relationship with reality and fantasy and how, in turn, pockets of the British landscape have been transformed in order to become theatres of recreational conflict."

Sunderland Culture is also working to help the development of creative industries in the city including support for emerging artists, creative businesses and the establishment of affordable workspaces:

In 2018 Sunderland Culture established a pop-up gallery and workspace in Mackie’s Corner – an out of use historic building in a prime city centre location. For the opening exhibition, University of Sunderland Glass and Ceramics graduates were commissioned to recreate the locally famous ‘Mackie’s Workshop’ to coincide with the arrival of the Tall Ships Races in the city. Other pop ups have included the ‘Localism’ exhibition from Art and Design Foundation Level students, and Vessels of Memory- 150 Glass Ships in Bottles by researcher Ayako Tani.

These are just some of the ways our students can tap into and benefit from the range of Sunderland Culture activities. Learn more about the full programme of events and activities

Learn more 

Learn more about Sunderland Culture on the official website.