Connect! Competition – Verdant Works’ experience

This time last year, Verdant Works applied for the national Connect! competition to bring graffiti artist PURE EVIL to Dundee. The team were thrilled, to be crowned the winners and would urge others to apply before the deadline in mid-March. Applications can be found here.

Anna Murray, Learning and Audiences Officer at Verdant Works talks about her experience of applying for the competition and would encourage different spaces to apply including pop-ups, castles, country houses and all the quirky venues in between!

What is Connect!?

Connect! is a public vote to choose which six UK cultural venues will win an internationally significant contemporary artist to lead a Museums at Night October event, along with a £3000 bursary. Up to five venues will compete to win each artist, and the polls will result in each artist leading a participatory event at their winning venue.

What did it look like for Verdant Works?

For those that missed it, Halloween in Dundee was greeted with an ambitious programme of light, projections, sound and sculpture orchestrated by London based graffiti artist PURE EVIL.

This event provided us with the perfect opportunity to launch the High Mill with atmospherically lit perspex templates hung from the industrial beams, creating colourful shadow imprints of his work on the flagstone flooring accompanied by self-penned soundscapes. This created the impression of the Victorian factory haunted by the future techno-ghosts of celebrity as the images of, mainly female, former factory workers gazed down from the walls. We were also able to invite Sheena Wellington to work with a local school choir to welcome guests in a suitably spooky Victorian style.

Photo credit: Erika Stevenson

Photo credit: Erika Stevenson

Why should you do it?

The public vote offers a great audience development outreach opportunity to communicate with the local community and media, inviting them to cast online votes to bring your chosen artist to your museum. In 2015, the year that we took part, over 35,000 members of the public voted to win an artist for their town or city…. Successful, or not, that’s a lot of people talking about your museum.

We were up against a National Trust property and significantly larger museums based in and around London. But, with the support of all of the Dundee institutions and networks, we won.

The event was successful for us for a number of reasons. Significantly we were able to take a risk in programming that wouldn’t have been possible due to funding. The timing for us was perfect, as we could launch the recently developed High Mill in style and create a bank of fantastic high quality night-time images that are essential for fundraising and marketing. We attempted to reach new audiences nationally and locally and we’re using it as an experiment for upcoming late-night programming this year. We even made a small income from ticket sales.

All venues that get to the public vote stage will receive a bursary to support your Museums at Night October event, from £100 to the winning £3000, enabling ambitious and creative event programming. The real beauty of this competition is that it allows smaller venues to take risks that aren’t usually possible due to funding. As a winning venue, we needed to provide match funding of £830, but the majority of this was done with staff and volunteer time alone.

Who are the 2016 artists?

The artists this year are: Marcus Coates, Susan Hiller, Aowen Jin, Peter Liversidge, Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, and Bedwyr Williams. You can find out more about each of the artists here.

What now?

All you have to do is complete the basic Event Submission Form by Friday 11 March. Click here to complete the form.

Competing venues will be announced on Friday 8 April, and the public vote will be open from Friday April 29 – Saturday May 14.