Art Matters Now

Back in 2019, we launched our inaugural Sunderland Creative Development Fellowships, with the aim of supporting creative practitioners. We wanted to support creative practitioners and organisations in Sunderland to develop themselves, to think about what might make them more resilient as practitioners or move them to the next stage of their career. Little did we realise at the time how that resilience would be tested! In this blog post, the recipient of one of the Creative Development Fellowship, Rory Williams, tells us about how he adapted his curatorial work in response to the challenges posed by lockdown.

My name is Rory Williams and recently, with my partner Christie, I created a small curatorial initiative called Art Matters Now, supported by Sunderland Culture through their Creative Development Fellowship.

We had been intending to open an exhibition, Our Fragile Coexistence, from March until April, but things didn’t go as planned. After close to four months of preparation, we had to make the difficult decision to cancel our preview and postpone the exhibition. I was facing my first exhibition as an emerging curator and I’d already fallen at the first hurdle – actually opening the exhibition!

After the panic settled down, one of the first questions we asked ourselves was how to find an alternative ‘space’ to exhibit. Naturally, we turned to the internet and started to brainstorm how to present a physical exhibition online. We came up with a number of ideas: videos, virtual tours, online galleries, essays, and more. Coincidentally, a lot of these were things that we had an interest in creating anyway.

Unfortunately, I had no idea where to begin, which made me wonder whether this was actually going to be possible. I was quite worried that I would just have to wait out the lockdown. Luckily, this wasn’t the case, I quickly found a number of videos that showed me step by step on how to do just about everything I was looking into.

I originally wanted to create a VR experience using a technique called photogrammetry. Unfortunately, that turned out to be very difficult with the current situation. Disappointed, I decided to create a 360 tour instead. It was easy enough to experiment with initially, using my mobile to create panoramic photographs which could be directly uploaded onto Facebook. But it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

Eventually, I discovered a method I liked. It took a lot of work, and a fair amount of research, but eventually, we were able to bring Our Fragile Coexistence into the digital world hosted on our very own website, which you can see here:

It wasn’t perfect, but I’m still immensely proud of the outcome!

I think for someone in the early stages of their career, like myself, it was important to stay motivated towards my goal. I’ve wanted to be a curator for a long time and this disruption came as a massive shock.

The hardest challenge I’ve realised however isn’t so much the capability to create new things or learn new skills. The difficult bit is the ability to be able to motivate yourself under daunting circumstances, learning what you need as an individual to continue your creative practice.

I found it incredibly useful to develop a routine, set daily goals and create the right atmosphere to work in. This worked as both a distraction and a guideline to separate my home life from my work life, something I soon realised was incredibly important

This worked for me but it’s up to you to find what works for you.


For more career opportunities, available throughout the year, visit Sunderland Culture’s opportunities page

The Sunderland Creative Development Fellowships were supported through the Unlock strand of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place programme, supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, and funded by Coastal Communities Fund, a partnership with Sunderland City Council.