A Coventry art gallery has commissioned its first artist as part of a new fund asking local creatives to respond to key themes within its exhibition programme.

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum will support local creatives with regular micro-commission opportunities of £700 to develop new work which can be shared digitally across the gallery’s social media channels and website.

Coventry-based spoken word poet John Bernard is the first recipient of funding and has created a short, spoken word poetry film looking at the perception of people of colour and how this affects young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Watch his work in the video above.

He said: “To be the first recipient of this funding is incredible. It is an absolute privilege to partner up with a place that has been instrumental in my growth as a creative; a place where I recorded my first piece of music. Pertaining to the piece I wanted to examine the lived experiences of people of colour in a way that was inspired by Wallace Stevens work whereby something can be viewed in multiple ways.

“Additionally, in most cases we tend to view people the way we are and not necessarily the way they are. I want to also acknowledge Fred Maganga (Videographer), Kudzai Zvomuya, Paneshe Malunga, Lethubuhle Mathema (instrumentalists) for bringing the piece to life.”

The Herbert has worked with arts organisation Maokwo – who aim to address the issues that minoritised artists and communities face – to shape this micro-commissioning project.

This commission in particular aimed to attract artists to respond to themes within the recent four-star ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking’ exhibition, which includes: personal memories as strategies of resistance; the lived experiences of people of colour; the disruption of traditional ways of viewing art; questions of where art belongs; and digital spaces as sites for resistance and representation.

Ruark Jon-Stevens, of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, said: “We spent the initial lockdown questioning what we could do to better support local communities and creatives.

“We had already joined the #StopHateforProfit campaign by freezing spend on social media and that made us question how we could instead utilise that money to provide paid opportunities for local creatives.

“We are delighted that the first artist to be part of this project is John Bernard and we are incredibly excited to share his work across our digital channels.

“Details on the next micro-commission opportunity will be shared via the Herbert’s website in the coming weeks.”

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