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New gallery provides artistic outlet for creative students

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Published on 06 April 2022

Iona Stock
Iona Stock

The University of Sunderland has officially opened the doors to its new Sunderland Creatives Gallery at National Glass Centre (NGC).

From today (Wednesday, 6 April), the local community and visitors to NGC at the University’s St Peter’s campus will be able to enjoy students’ work for the first time in this new space, including Degree Shows and alumni exhibitions.

The new gallery will not only give the University’s Arts and Creatives Industries students a chance to shine but also provide them with first-hand experience of putting on an exhibition.

Professor Arabella Plouviez, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland, explained: “This is a fantastic resource that will enable our students to develop their experience of curating and exhibiting in a professional, public-facing gallery. 

“Our students are always keen to engage with real-life opportunities that expose them to the world of the creative industries, whether this is through taking up freelance work with our Sunderland Creatives agency, working for our community radio station Spark, performing in the new Fire Station Auditorium and now, putting on exhibitions in the new Sunderland Creatives Gallery. 

“Learning in these real environments provides our graduates with unique experience, skills and knowledge that they can take into their future creative careers.”

The gallery’s first exhibition – which is running until 15 May – features work by School of Art and Design graduates of 2020 and 2021. Due to Covid restrictions, these graduates missed out on the opportunity to be part of the University’s in-person Degree Shows but are now the first to exhibit in the new space. 

Curator of the exhibition and Professor of Visual Arts at the University, Mike Collier, said: “Being able to bring together some of our graduates to launch this new gallery has been amazing, especially as these cohorts had to contend with the limitations that the pandemic brought. 

“It has been a real pleasure to see the diversity and originality of the works and the themes explored as well as the professionalism. It has also been impressive to see how these individuals have progressed as graduates, taking their social responsibility and awareness into their futures.”

Professor Kevin Petrie, Head of the School of Art and Design at the University, added: “As well as showcasing the great work our students have made, this show also highlights some of the careers and professions-facing support they have taken advantage of, including the University’s funded Robson Creative Internship programme and the Futures Fund scholarships to build confidence and experience, as well as business development support from the Enterprise Place and the Digital Incubator and support from Sunderland Culture, which manages the cultural venues in the city.”

Among those having their work exhibited in Creative Futures: Recent graduates from the School of Art and Design, University of Sunderland are: 

Natalie Martin, 24, from Washington (Fine Art)

Natalie, who has recently taken up the position as Academic Tutor in Fine Art at the University with support from the Artists’ Benevolent Fund, said: “After everything that has happened over the past couple of years it’s not only a fantastic opportunity to present work alongside other graduates, but it’s also great to see where everyone is in their careers now and that even in adversity creativity flourishes.

“The Sunderland Creatives Gallery has undertaken a massive transformation into an amazing space to be utilised by students and graduates alike. I think it’s a phenomenal place for students across the University to have access to a professional gallery space of this scale.”

Katie Carr, 21, from South Tyneside (Fine Art) 

Katie, who is continuing her studies in the north-east, said: “It feels inspiring to have my work featured in the exhibition. 

“Due to the pandemic, it was difficult to exhibit work in real life or to see the wonderful art that was being created. The opportunity to exhibit alongside other graduates in a new space feels very refreshing and uplifting. 

“It allows for students to be seen and heard as professional artists.”

Lauren Frost, 23, from Penrith (Artist Designer Maker: Glass and Ceramics

Lauren, who works as a ceramicist and ceramics teacher in Cumbria, said: “I love that the exhibition will showcase a variety of artistic mediums and celebrate work post-graduation. I am really pleased that there seems to be an equal appreciation of fine art and craft.

“It’s wonderful that students and post-graduates will have the opportunity to showcase their work and be inspired by one another’s work there too.”

Iona Stock, 22, from Nawton, North Yorkshire (Artist Designer Maker: Glass and Ceramics) 

Iona, who runs her own studio in Nawton, said: “I am very grateful to have been selected for this exhibition. It’s a great space to have open to the students and will definitely be used to its full potential.

“We used to use the informal entrance area for assessments and mini exhibitions but now they have a specific exhibition space, it will be in constant use.”

Erica Donnelly, 23, from Newcastle (Illustration and Design

Erica, who also studied a Design MA, now works as a primary school teacher alongside self-publishing her illustration work.

She said: “I am incredibly excited and grateful to have my work exhibited. 

“During lockdown I felt like I missed out on such a great opportunity to have all my hard work exhibited. However, this fantastic new gallery has really allowed me to revisit my achievements and feel a sense of pride.”


The University of Sunderland is supporting MadeAtUni: Creative Sparks, a national campaign to showcase the creative talent produced by UK universities and encourage the Government to promote and support the importance of creativity and creative courses.