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Taking on the world with art

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Published on 19 April 2023

The 2023 Art and Design Global Challenges Scholars (L-R): Hannah Garrett, Abbey Hayman, Andrea Reay, Kass McGeoch, Libby Martindale.
The 2023 Art and Design Global Challenges Scholars (L-R): Hannah Garrett, Abbey Hayman, Andrea Reay, Kass McGeoch, Libby Martindale.

University of Sunderland students Hannah Garrett, Abbey Hayman, Libby Martindale, Kass McGeoch and Andrea Reay have been awarded £1,000 each, along with support from renowned glass artist Mike Davies CBE, to create diverse and challenging art as part of the new Art and Design Global Challenges Scholarship. Though every artist is tackling very different subjects and art forms, all their work is connected by themes from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The students will create exhibitions, fashion shows, and even rug-making, to highlight issues including marine pollution, transgender rights, and the cost of living crisis. 

Every year the University’s Development Office awards tens of thousands of pounds in scholarships. Development Officer Scholarships (DOSH) are exclusive to current students, both undergraduate and postgraduate studying at the University of Sunderland. Scholarships are non-means tested and never have to be paid back. 

Hannah Garrett, 19, is in the second year of their Fashion Design and Promotion degree. Hannah is non-binary and has a transgender boyfriend. Hannah and their boyfriend have experienced discrimination, and Hannah has turned to their love of art and fashion to focus on this issue.

“My exhibition will highlight the transgender experience with paintings, screen prints and clothes printed with local transgender peoples accounts of how it feels to be transgender,” says Hannah. “Transgender people are scrutinised in the media are turned into a political debate, I want to show the humanity and emotion that comes with being transgender and hopefully help my community through my art.

“This project is inspired by transgender people past and present and their commitment to living freely, especially Briana Ghey who unfortunately was became a victim to transphobia just like hundreds of transgender people each year.”

Sixteen-year-old Brianna Ghey was a transgender girl from Cheshire who was killed in February.

Hannah added: “I believe art is a powerful source to spread message and emotion. I want to show the humanity, emotion and beauty in being transgender.”

MA Design student Abbey Hayman is tackling the issue of gender equality, by creating a large-scale, environmentally sustainable rug.

“I want to use the arts to promote gender equality through the creation of a large-scale piece of work addressing gender equality. I specifically would like to create a tufted wall hanging or rug, and would use the funding to research, explore and purchase locally produced, sustainable wools, yarns, and materials.

“The arts have long been a platform for social and political change and have the power to create dialogue and raise awareness about important issues.”

Libby Martindale is also studying MA Design and is using the Global Challenges scholarship to help her launch a clothing brand, Toddle & Ted, producing sustainable and cost-effective clothing, which grows with young children.

“Toddle & Ted will help families struggling with the current cost of living crisis, by providing them with long-life clothing that holds multiple unique design factors including climate-adaptive features, multi-end uses and ethical packaging. 

“The cost-of-living crisis means that many households and families around the UK will sadly see the effects of this on the lives of themselves and their children.”

Final year Fashion Design and Promotion student Kass McGeoch is also looking at the issue of clothing and fashion, and how it can reflect mental health.

“I will be using inspiration from traditional Japanese repair techniques such as Kintsugi and Momigami, as well as recycled paper to represent growth and repair.

“I wanted to show through fashion the idea that although someone is healing, the journey there is not smooth.”

MA Glass and Ceramics Andrea Reay is looking at a subject very close to heart of communities in our region, marine pollution, particularly the mass die-off of crustaceans at the mouth of the River Tees.

“Thousands of dead and dying crustaceans and shell creatures washed up on my local shore,” says Andrea. “More recently low tides have revealed decimated kelp beds. The entire finally balanced ecosystem is destroyed. Local fishermen have lost their livelihoods and our community is devastated.

“The work that I will produce will be a memorial to this catastrophe and act a focal point for community discussion and sharing, as well as being an opportunity to educate people on issues around environmental pollution and our oceans.”

Andrea will exhibit her work at Saltburn Studios and Gallery in February 2024.

Professor Kevin Petrie, Head of the School of Arts and Design at University of Sunderland, says: “In the School of Art and Design we believe that our students’ creativity can make the world a better place. We developed the Art and Design Global Challenges scholarships, with Mike Davies CBE and with student input, to both support and celebrate some of the society shaping projects our students are working on. 

“It was a great privilege to be part of the panel that awarded these scholarships and I’m looking forward to seeing creative work that emerges from the projects.”

Gareth Trainer, Head of the University’s Centre for Graduate Prospects, added: “By taking advantage of this opportunity to influence society through their practice, these students are developing skills and impact that will be hugely influential to their ongoing prospects and the society they shape as graduates. It was hugely enjoyable meeting applicants, and it will be very exciting watching the successful projects come to fruition.”

The Art and Design Global Challenges Scholarship was created by Mike Davies CBE to support students in undertaking a project or opportunity to develop creative practice for the potential benefit of others whilst tackling current global challenges.

Mike is renowned for his extraordinary contribution to innovative architecture, building engineering and glass technology and is a passionate supporter of the University of Sunderland. His 50-year career has involved him with projects such as the Pompidou Centre Paris, Lloyd's of London, the Millennium Dome and Heathrow Terminal 5.

The project was inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These are:

“The blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Addressing the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.”