Local art museum, Mima, have thrown open their doors to celebrate Middlesbrough’s heritage in an extremely unique way.
The latest exhibition, named Localism, is an ambitious project designed to tell the story of our industrial town from 1829 till the present day.
The idea is to change the perception of art from a spectator sport into something which residents can get involved with. As well as imagery, the exhibition includes stills from Ridley Scott’s iconic film, Bladerunner, inspired by Middlebrough’s dramatic landscape.
On interviewing Alistair Hudson, Director of Art at Mima, his office was filled with contemporary art, shelves of books which he joked was a “small library” and a blackboard filled with ideas and brainstorms. It was clear that he had many fresh ideas for the art institution.
“Localism is the first show I’ve been responsible for but I believe it’s one that’s most important for Middlesbrough. ” he says nervously.
“We’re a town of making and this exhibition reflects that by getting locals involved with the art. It’s ever changing and the more we add to it, the more we learn about the culture that surrounds us.”
“Mima has had its criticism in the past for showing things which were deemed ‘anti Middlesbrough’. So I wanted to evolve it into a useful museum where people can come and get involved with the art through workshops and talks.”
This is a sentiment that has clearly been echoed by many local residents as summer workshops were ‘packed out’ with many offering ideas, suggesting artists and what they’d like to see in the new exhibition.
However, it’s ironic that with this celebration of our local history comes the closure of a company that is the defining element of Middlesbrough. With a loss of 1,700 jobs and 170 years of steelmaking, SSI represents the very heart and soul of this town.
“I believe it’s really shortsighted to shut down a steel plant. It’s something that should be protected and valued. We should care about maintaining our culture, not just making money.” says Alistair
“I don’t think it’s enough for Mima to illustrate it in our timeline. Let’s talk about it openly and the impact it’s had on us all. It’s be nice for us to give back through our project and get those people involved with it.”
Among those impacted has been 19 year old, Curtis Olley, an apprentice who had been training for two years for an opportunity at SSI.
“The closure of SSI has meant that I’m currently out of work, claiming job seekers allowance and I’m unlikely to find anywhere to complete my apprenticeship this year.” he said
“At the moment my future is uncertain which is extremely worrying for me, all I can do is participate in further education to increase my chances of getting a job within the instrumentation trade.”
The Localism exhibition is now open until February 7th. Whether that’s your personal history or celebrating our historic steel trade.