Arts Cabinet
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Arts Cabinet
Operating at the intersection between art and research

Arts Cabinet operates at the intersection between art and research, which we see as a framework through which to experiment and enquire into the potential to transform the current state of things.

Arts Cabinet, the name

The name Arts Cabinet was inspired by the legacy of the curiosity cabinet in contemporary art, in particular in artistic and curatorial practices which are influenced by categorisation, classification and archiving, alongside the random selection of objects and ideas.

The concept of curiosity draws on Michel Foucault’s analysis of the word in ‘The Masked Philosopher’. Curiosity “…can also evoke ‘concern’, the care that one takes for what exists and could exist; a readiness to find strange and singular what surrounds us; a certain relentlessness to break up our familiarities and to regard otherwise the same things.”

The association of Arts with Cabinet is meant to evoke a juxtaposition between artistic curiosity and academic rigour as a basis for engaging critically but also imaginatively with the world around us.

Who we are

Arts Cabinet is steered by the following Board of Trustees:

Stuart MacDonald is the Chair and co-founder of Arts Cabinet. He is a senior consultant in international cultural relations, advising the EU and Governments about their cultural diplomacy strategies. Prior to that, Stuart founded the Centre for Cultural Relations (now the Institute for International Cultural Relations) at the University of Edinburgh. Stuart has 20+ years experience as a senior policy advisor to the UK and Scottish Governments on a range of topics including international relations, cultural policy and education.

Anthony Downey is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa within the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University, and, Editor-in-Chief, IbraazPublishing.

Carla Figueira is the Director of the MA in Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy and of the MA in Tourism and Cultural Policy at the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Edward Hollis is Dean of Research at Edinburgh College of Art. He is an architect, a teacher and a writer, whose books include The Secret Lives of Buildings and The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors. He lives in Edinburgh, where he is Reader in Interior Design.

Tom Fleming is a leading international expert on the creative economy and cultural policy. His work focuses on advising governments, municipalities and institutions across the world to develop effective research, policy, strategy and action. He is director of Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy.

Mark O’Neill was until recently Director of Policy and Research for Glasgow Life, the charity which delivers cultural services for the city of Glasgow. Prior to that, Mark was Head of Arts and Museums in the City of Glasgow. He publishes extensively and is an internationally known speaker, delivering keynote conference addresses around the world. He has served on numerous committees, including the Getty Foundation’s Museum Leadership Institute in Los Angeles.

Nicholas Sharp is a London-based solicitor with Swan Turton LLP, specialising in advising artists and arts organisations on contracts, intellectual property and other legal issues. He is also the Director and co-founder of The Multiple Store, a not-for-profit organisation which commissions and sells limited editions by major contemporary artists. 

Senior Advisors

Professor Jeff Haywood

Jeff is Emeritus Professor of Education & Technology in the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests are in the development of strategies for effective use of ICT in education at institutional, national and international levels, with a particular emphasis on understanding learner experiences. Until 2015, he was Vice-Principal for Knowledge Management, Chief Information Officer and Librarian at the University of Edinburgh, leading initiatives in expanding online distance and open education, high performance computing services, research data management and storage services. From 2015-17 he was Vice Principal Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, leading the university’s digital education strategy, including its expanding portfolio of taught online Masters degrees and CPD, distance PhDs, and MOOCs.His presentations and publications can be found at http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/jeffhaywood/

Alma Salem Expert Advisor to the Board, Middle-East and North Africa:

Alma is an expert in Middle-East and North Africa arts, culture and heritage sectors, having worked 10 years for the Council in Beirut as Regional Arts manager for the MENA region. Alma is the Curator of the touring exhibition entitled ‘ Syria Third Space’ showcasing new works by Syrian artists in times of conflict, launched in London in January 2015, at The EU parliament building, Brussels June 2015 ‘ and in Belfast, January 2016. 

Our team

Svetlana Sequeira Costa is the founding director of Arts Cabinet. She has been working in the field of art and culture transnationally for over 20 years, with major institutions, leading artists, public and private. She is passionately committed to working with artists and to add value to the development of their work. She is a research fellow at Goldsmiths College, London.

Denise Clarke

Cecile Bourne-Farrell 

Our community of practice

We work with a global network of researchers, artists, practitioners, educators, activists, and independent experts. We also work in partnership with higher education and cultural institutions, such as galleries and museums, that are interested in presenting our work or taking part in projects we develop. 

Our history, our values

Post-revolutionary Tunisia was the point of departure for the creation of Arts Cabinet.

In 2012, in Tunis, in the aftermath of the revolution, I saw artists and cultural communities at the forefront of re-thinking the relationships between art, context, and social change. I witnessed how artistic inquiry into critical issues was a stimulus to free and creative exchange. I engaged in events – public and closed - which confirmed that enquiry through art had the power to bring people together and forge common ground about past and present, histories, places and concerns. New ways of seeing and understanding the world were rapidly emerging through an unprecedented and spontaneous proliferation of actions and experiments that brought artists, thinkers, intellectuals, activists and others together to test potential ideas for a new future.

From 2013 to 2015, in association with an active network of collaborators and supporters, I engaged with partners across the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and Europe to identify what type of initiative was needed to support the creative dynamism that had emerged in North Africa in the post-revolutionary years.

It became clear that an alternative approach was needed, one that had the ability and independence to rise above the traditional models of exchange. The imperative was to ensure non-instrumentalised, forward-looking and open engagement, as an alternative way to build relationships between people, ideas and places.

It also became clear that to deliver this approach, a new type of structure needed to be formed: one which could operate nomadically and transnationally, flexibly and independently. The essential role of such a structure would be to create conditions for stimulating inquiry and in time become a solid platform where artists and researchers could be free to collaborate, generate critical thinking, form independent projects, interrogate the current state of things, and imagine how the world might be other than it is.

Arts Cabinet was therefore formed in 2016 as an independent organisation, registered as a not for profit Charity in England, with the mission to support and enable free inquiry, forge collaboration between artists, researchers and communities of interest, and educate through art by making knowledge accessible for the public benefit.

In order to do this, we continue to be independent and committed to the promotion of the value of free, un-instrumentalised artistic enquiry.

Svetlana Sequeira Costa
Founding Director

Acknowledgements

Arts Cabinet has received support from the following institutions, national and international, that contributed to the development of the organisation by funding specific activities, offering in-kind support, and inviting us to take part in events internationally.

Funding

Creative Scotland; Mimeta (Norway); The University of Edinburgh (ECA); The Scottish Government; The British Council (Tunisia); More Europe (Brussels); The Norwegian Consulate (UK); The University of Agder (Norway); EUNIC Global (Brussels).

Institutional Support

Goldsmiths College London; King’s College London; The Cultural Diplomacy Platform (Brussels); The Kamel Lazaar Foundation (Tunis); IBRAAZ (Tunis, London); The Prince Claus Fund.

Special thanks to our trustees, associates, advisors, collaborators, and volunteers whose support, trust and enthusiasm have been crucial to the development of the organisation.