Meet the Partners: Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

13 January 2021



In our latest blog series 'Meet the Partners', we hear from the teams behind round two of the National Partners Programme to find out more about their unique museum and gallery venues.

Heather Pasfield, Digital Programme Producer at Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, shares her experiences and highlights working on the programme, route into the museum sector and what she's looking forward to. 



Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange is one of three regional galleries and museums to present and curate exhibitions drawn from the Arts Council Collection as part of the National Partners Programme. For more than 125 years, Newlyn Art Gallery has offered a wide and varied exhibition programme, presenting contemporary work in all media by regional, national and international artists, with a supporting programme of events across two sites.

The second venue, The Exchange, is a major contemporary art space in the centre of Penzance that opened in 2007 and was formerly the town’s telephone exchange. Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange believe that art and art organisations can perform a civic function and be relevant to, and lead a change in, social issues and this inspires their ambitous programme of exhibitions and projects aimed at connecting audiences in the south west with the Arts Council Collection.


ACC: Can you tell us a little bit about your venue and what makes it special?


HP: Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange is special for many reasons. Firstly, the small team will always go above and beyond to make you feel welcome and work hard to meet deadlines with the best possible quality of work. I arrived in Penzance around January 2020 and I remember my first staff meeting, it had a great energy that was open to sharing with the wider team. That sense of transparency and collaboration is routine in the office, and since the pandemic I have seen the same people go hard to deliver and support new projects for lockdown audiences. It’s a great team to be a part of. 

Another special thing about our venue is that we have two distinct main spaces, and with one ticket you get access to both venues. We have The Exchange in the heart of Penzance, the building has a beautiful glass exterior that looks magical when it lit up at night. The view from the Newlyn Art Gallery is really really our best kept secret. Built 125 years ago, the famous building is just beautiful and now we have our outdoor café space where our audiences can enjoy delicious cakes and coffee whilst on the look out for seals in Mounts Bay!

The Arts Council Collection : Meet the Partners: Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

ACC: What made you want to be a part of the Newlyn team and what was your route into working in the museum sector?


HP: My experience in Digital Producing comes from a theatre and performance background. I knew I wanted to explore with Digital as this flexible model / tool for harnessing engagement online. I was innovating with live streaming and content for Off West End venues at the time, but I knew that I wanted to test my own skill set within a regional venue. I had an instinct to investigate arts organisations, including galleries, as I’d always found that large scale art installations were at the forefront of representing artists pushing the limits of multimedia or complex technical exhibitions and were always playing with digital innovations. 

I wanted to join Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange because I was excited by the chance to work with a gallery built around community values with diverse, high-quality art exhibitions, and a desire to develop its digital programme for future audiences. There is something I learn everyday about working in a gallery and it’s been a fascinating process adapting my skills for the museum sector. My role as the Digital Programme Producer at Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange can be quite varied but mostly, I help develop and support the digital aspects of the partners programme. At the moment I mainly work locally with my programming team to deliver digital elements from our Arts Council Collection exhibitions. For example, planning out audio-visual kit, measurements to install projectors or even video editing features to go on social media. 

The Arts Council Collection : Meet the Partners: Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

ACC: What challenges have you come up against in developing your programme?


HP: The obvious challenge has been the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Everyone has had to adapt online. As a digital producer it has been crucial to challenge my own perceptions of online engagement in lockdown, without trying to get sucked in by TikTok. It made me think back to my postgrad, when I was interrogating what are we using these online platforms for? Audience engagement is the undeniable focus, but it’s clear that this pandemic has accelerated our daily usage of screens. We’ve had to adapt massively as an art gallery to meet those needs, but our online catalogue of Films & Audio has never been stronger. As well as hosting a selection of Films from the Arts Council Collection, we’ve also produced 360˚ virtual tours of our exhibitions, podcasts, webinars, resource packs and online workshops.

ACC: What has been the highlight of the partnership for you so far?


HP: Welcoming our first shows Hippo Campus: Where We Learn and Go On Being So. I loved working on both of those shows and I’m relatively new to the organisation, so it was a great initiation. Hippo Campus was a show about the process and history of learning and it had lots of multimedia that I was responsible for organising. I love figuring out the digital set up of a show, I always compare it to a similar process of a circuit board in trying to make the whole system work as a part of a wider vision. For Go On Being So we had films from the Art Council Collection that had been selected by 12 – 16 year olds, but my favourite part of that exhibition was filming a Talking Heads interview about their own experiences as art curators.

The Arts Council Collection : Meet the Partners: Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

ACC: What is your favourite work in the Arts Council Collection and why?


HP: Andy Holden's Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, 2011-16. I’m a big fan of exploring themes in pop culture and together with a fun digital installation spread over two screens, it’s a playful investigation of a cartoon universe. It’s a great piece for families to engage in creative thinking around visual arts in a simple and entertaining way. Plus the references to classic cartoons are just too good to miss!


ACC: What’s coming up in the partnership that you are most excited about?


HP: We’ve got our collaborative project coming up with our young people next year that’s pretty exciting. Before lockdown we had brilliant engagement from a local group of young LGBTQIA+ people working with the Intercom Trust, and they really responded to being in an art gallery and sharing their opinions about art. I’m excited to see how they’ll shape the show and to see the results of their work.


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Curating Super Black

14 November 2019

For its first exhibition as part of Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme, Firstsite in Colchester hosts Super Black, an exhibition that asks, ‘What does it mean to be black in England today?’. The exhibition brings together Arts Council Collection works by artists including Hurvin Anderson, Claudette Johnson, Vanley Burke, Sonia Boyce and Helen Cammock, alongside new work by Southend-based artist, Elsa James.

Rather than being led directly from within the institution, Super Black was jointly devised and delivered by people from Essex’s black community, who worked to arrive at a selection of artworks from the Collection that they feel give an expression of black consciousness.

This more open and democratic approach to programming reflects Firstsite’s wider commitment to exploring new ways of working with local communities. As Firstsite’s Emma Reeve explains, “Super Black signals the start of a new way of working for Firstsite and having support from the Arts Council Collection has meant that we can work together meaningfully with our local community. In this case, the Super Black curatorial team was made up of people from the Black Afro-Caribbean communities of Colchester and Essex, all of whom have an integral role in their locality as an artist, café owner or community activist.”

The curatorial team worked together to develop ideas for the project through a series of workshops and discussions as well as visiting one of the Arts Council Collection’s stores, which presented the opportunity for the group to view and discuss some of the artworks they had selected. The curatorial team comprised artist Elsa James, as well as Lawrence Walker, Chair of Black History Month Colchester, Rachel Walton, co-founder of African Families in the UK (AFiUK), and Simone McLean and Yasmin Carr, of Colchester-based S&S Caribbean Café.


“Having the opportunity to visit the store in London was very exciting for the Super Black group, including me!”, explains Emma, “it was a deeply emotional moment being with the group as we saw the works they had chosen together. Being present in the same room as the artworks brought out new memories and associations, which we chatted about long after the visit.”

“I really enjoyed the discussions and debates and there was a genuine interest in the answers to the questions that were being asked.” explains Yasmin Carr, “The Firstsite team have been amazing - listening to us and being willing to learn...moreover they have followed through, and I feel represented what the community feels.”

Among the works viewed at the store were a series of black and white documentary photographs by Vanley Burke. "The Vanley Burke photographs evoked a great conversation” recalls Yasmin. “The whole idea of baptism, marriage and death is perfectly depicted and is something we could all relate to.”

The Arts Council Collection : Curating Super Black

Reflecting on their involvement in the project and hopes for the exhibition's reception, the curatorial team are unanimously optimistic: “This project has asked questions of us, my hope is that people visiting the exhibition will also ask questions and seek answers which they take back to their day to day lives” says Yasmin, "Firstsite has shown they are in touch and want to continue learning, to show they are not playing lip service to a trend, the space created is real for real people.”

For Firstsite, the Super Black project represents the start of an ambitious longer term shift in the way it programmes explains Emma: “For Super Black we wanted to make the curatorial process as democratic as possible, an ethos that has opened up new ideas and possibilities for everyone involved. The ongoing aim at Firstsite is for half of our entire programme to be created in this way by 2024.”


Super Black is at Firstsite in Colchester until 12 January.

About the National Partners Programme

The National Partners Programme was launched in 2016 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Arts Council Collection by creating a network of regional galleries and museums to present and curate exhibitions drawn from the Arts Council Collection.

Embracing new approaches to working with local communities and introducing audiences to the Collection is a key element of the National Partners programme. Super Black is one of a number of current projects initiated by our National Partners that seeks to enable local people to dive into the Collection in a way that is meaningful to them.

In Sunderland, following an open call to local residents, Sunderland Culture have recruited a group of ‘Arts Council Collection Arts Champions’,  who will work together to nurture their curiosity in the Collection and act as ambassadors when the first National Partners exhibition, Received Wisdom, opens in February 2020.

In Cornwall, young people from Mounts Bay Academy in Penzance make up the first youth curators of the programme, working with Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange staff to develop an understanding of the collection and to select works for their first exhibition.


Sign up the the Arts Council Collection newsletter for regular updates on National Partners activity.

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Meet the Partners: Sunderland Culture

23 June 2020

In a new blog series, we hear from the teams behind our current National Partners Programme to find out more about their unique museum and gallery venues. First up, Posy Jowett, Public Engagement and Learning Officer at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens shares her experiences and insights working on the programme, as well as her personal highlights and route into the museum sector.

Sunderland Culture is one of three current Arts Council Collection National Partners and operates a number of venues across the city, including National Glass Centre and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art as well as Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, with a combined audience of over 700,000. Over the next three years, Sunderland Culture will produce an ambitious programme of exhibitions and projects aimed at connecting the Arts Council Collection to diverse audiences who otherwise would have limited opportunities to experience it.


ACC: Can you tell us a little bit about your venue and what makes it special?


PJ: I work from Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens which is a beautiful old building right by Sunderland’s main shopping streets, home to the spectacular Winter Gardens, which houses heat and humidity loving plants and a pond full of Koi Fish! Every so often the gardener will ask me if I want a banana leaf or a huge piece of bamboo – I always say yes.

In the museum, we hold extensive collections which tell the story of Sunderland, which used to be a busy port town with lots of local industry. We have gorgeous art collections – including an extensive Lowry collection – and an exhibitions gallery where the Arts Council Collection Exhibitions and other temporary exhibitions are shown. In Sunderland, residents have a soft spot for the Museum. In living memory it’s always been free to enter and so lots of families bring their children along, teenagers use it to escape from the rain, and older people use it as a meeting place.


ACC: Can you describe your route into working in the museum sector and your current role at Sunderland Culture?

I loved art at school and studied Fine Art for my BA – but when I was there I realised that I didn’t love making art as much as I loved designing exhibitions, and talking and writing about artwork. I went on to study Cultural Heritage Management for my MA, and alongside my studies I picked up work in the Front of House team at a theatre in Newcastle. I continued working in theatre for a number of years as Deputy Front of House Manager (including taking our shows on tour to the Edinburgh Fringe!), and as a freelance Stage Manager with a local theatre company.

I built a huge portfolio of work and volunteer projects, as well as building two small businesses. I was also part of Team Juice – the group of young people who co-ordinated Juice Festival in Newcastle Gateshead every year during October half term. On this team, I met Rachel Hamer – now Young People and Communities Producer at Sunderland Culture. Rachel spotted an opportunity for me at Arts Centre Washington as Participation Co-Ordinator, and I was able to consolidate what were nine jobs at that time down to three!

The Arts Council Collection : Meet the Partners: Sunderland Culture

Within my current role, as Public Engagement and Learning Officer with Sunderland Culture, I'm working on the National Partners Programme, as part of a dedicated and ambitious team, whcih was a total dream job! A role working with high quality artworks and my local communities was the perfect challenge for me – and my experience of juggling multiple projects has definitely come in handy!

I work as part of a learning team at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, and more widely than that as part of a learning and education team across Sunderland Culture. 

I get to work closely with the Learning Manager for Arts Council Collection, Nat Walton, and with learning teams across the NPP venues. I really enjoy being part of this big extended team network!

My role is to introduce our local Sunderland communities to the works of the Arts Council Collection. I do this by working with specific groups on projects, as well as with the general public through family arts activities, tours and school visits. Some days I am beavering away in the office, contracting artists and planning activities, and other days I’ll be with hundreds of members of the public getting crafty! I love the variety of work I get to do in my role.

The Arts Council Collection : Meet the Partners: Sunderland Culture


ACC: What is Sunderland's best kept cultural secret?

PJ: Last year I coordinated ‘People’s Pyrex’ – a community exhibition of Pyrex dishes loaned to us from the back of pantries from across Sunderland. Sunderland’s Pyrex factory supplied Pyrex across the world for almost 100 years until the factory closed in 2007.

Friendships, relationships and families were forged and connected by Pyrex: from the domestic patterned pieces that were gifted at weddings and from which Sunday’s dinner would be served, to the handcrafted pieces made for loved ones on the factory floor during workers’ breaks.

What surprised me the most when we were collecting pieces for the exhibition was the number of bespoke and handmade objects made by Pyrex workers alongside those mass produced pieces. Sunderland has always been the home to craftspeople and makers! Find out more about ‘People’s Pyrex’ in this podcast I recorded with Arty Parti: listen here.

ACC: What is your favourite work in the Arts Council Collection and why?

PJ: One of the things I love the most about working with the Arts Council Collection is knowing that I am yet to discover pieces that might become my favourite! Having said that, my  favourite moment from last year was exploring Roger Hiorns’ Seizure (2008) for the first time at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) with the most fantastic group – Sunderland’s Art Champions.

We had travelled to visit the Arts Council Collection's Longside Gallery and sculpture centre and were able to spend the afternoon in the autumn sunshine, meandering around YSP. Seizure is a bedsit flat, carved from a condemned block in London and rehomed in Yorkshire, and it is filled from top to bottom with electric blue copper sulphate crystals. Walking through the space you’re confronted with the familiar – light switches, dado rails, a bathtub – but they have been transformed into this magical otherworldly version of themselves. For most of our Art Champions it was the highlight of their day, and I remember Debs (one of the Art Champions) saying to me that she didn’t know that art could do that. Watching Debs and the others discover the possibilities of art through this work, reignited my own feelings for the power and potential of art. So – for the time being – Seizure is my favourite work in the Arts Council Collection!

The Arts Council Collection : Meet the Partners: Sunderland Culture

ACC: What’s your favourite thing about being an ACC National Partner?

PJ: I remember vividly the first time I spoke on the phone with Beth, one of the Arts Council Collection Curators, when we selected artworks to show our Art Champions for our visits to the ACC stores.

We settled on a work by Francis Bacon, a work by Bridget Riley, and a piece by Wolfgang Tillmans amongst others. I studied these artists at school and thought back ten years to what my seventeen-year-old self would have thought about this phone call!

The other thing I appreciate about being an ACC National Partner is the opportunities it’s given me and my team to try new things and to take risks. We’re able to work closely, over long periods, with individuals and communities and watch them change and grow as a result of working with us. I feel like I’m constantly learning about myself and the people I share my city with – and that is really satisfying!


WATCH: 'Welcome to the Collection' follows the journey of Sunderland residents as they delve into the world of contemporary and modern art through the Arts Council Collection.

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Conservator's View: Movement in Squares by Bridget Riley

8 October 2019

Ahead of Hayward Gallery's major Bridget Riley retrospective, which opens this month, Conservator Rachel Carey-Thomas discusses Riley’s seminal Arts Council Collection work, Movement in Squares, 1961, revealing the intricate processes and methodical approach involved in cleaning this iconic painting.


Movement in Squares is one of Riley’s first fully abstract paintings and is therefore a hugely significant work. The version owned by the Arts Council was preceded by several other iterations, giving us an insight into how she honed and refined the concept and its execution.

The Arts Council acquired the definitive version in 1962 – the year after it had been painted - from Riley’s first solo show at Gallery One. Apparently this show was the outcome of a chance encounter with Gallery One director Victor Musgrave, which happened when Riley sought shelter from a rainstorm in the gallery’s entrance!

Although Riley has maintained a meticulous archive, the type of paint used for these very early abstract works is undocumented. We know that from the late 1960s she was using acrylics for their useful handling properties but Riley talks of using house paint to create her earliest black and white paintings and, in particular, a well-known brand named Ripolin, also used by Picasso.

From a conservator’s perspective, the uncertainty over what medium was used meant that my work would be guided by the results of tests to identify the properties of the paint and the effect of different cleaning agents. 


It has been a privilege to work on such an iconic painting: one of the great pleasures of working in conservation is the opportunity to spend time really getting to know an artwork. Cleaning has given Movement in Squares a ‘lift’. The accumulation of marks and overall greyness reduced the contrast between the two tones and detracted from the purity of the work’s conception.

I am so often surprised by the difference that even a small intervention can make to the enjoyment of a painting. After re-tensioning a slack canvas or restoring a minor scuff, one is suddenly able to view the work without distraction. I like to think that conservation restores the ‘integrity’ of an artwork. 

Our public collections are a wonderful resource and it is hugely important that they are well cared for so that works can be seen at their best now and by generations to come.


Rachel Carey-Thomas works with London-based conservation studio Shepherd Contemporary.


Image right: Installation view of Bridget Riley, Movement in Squares, 1961 at Hayward Gallery 2019 © Bridget Riley 2019 Photo Stephen White & Co.

The Arts Council Collection : Conservator's View: Movement in Squares by Bridget Riley

Movement in Squares will be on display as part of a major retrospective exhibition of Riley’s work at Hayward Gallery, 23 October until 26 January 2020. 

Developed in close collaboration with the artist herself – and in partnership with National Galleries of Scotland – it is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of her work to date.

Tracing both the origins and the evolving nature of Riley’s innovative practice, the exhibition brings together the artist’s iconic black-and-white paintings of the 1960s, expansive canvases in colour, early figurative works and recent wall paintings.


> More



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Works in Profile: Movement in Squares

Senior Curator, Natalie Rudd, introduces Bridget Riley's Movement in Squares, 1961. The painting is a key work in the Collection and was purchased by the critic David Sylvester from Riley’s first solo exhibition in London.

The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.