National Partners Programme Round 2 Announcement

12 March 2019

We are pleased to announce that the Arts Council Collection National Partners for 2019-22 will be Firstsite in Essex, Sunderland Culture in Tyne and Wear, and The Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange in Cornwall.

Arts Council England has awarded each partner £550,000 over three years, from April 2019 – March 2022. The grants will support the organisations to present exhibitions that showcase and are inspired by work from the Arts Council Collection, raising the Collection’s profile with the public. Funded by the National Lottery, the National Partners Programme aims to increase the diversity and number of people enjoying the Collection, and to support organisational development in regional art galleries.

By working in partnership with the Collection team at Southbank Centre, and Arts Council Collection Centre for Sculpture based at Longside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the partners will produce innovative exhibitions of the highest quality and reach new audiences through engagement activity.

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture said: “We are delighted to be working with the Arts Council Collection to bring amazing works of art to audiences in Sunderland and the North East over the next three years. Bringing the Arts Council Collection to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is the latest instalment in the resurgence of the city as a centre for arts and culture following hot on the heels of the reopening of the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and the Tall Ships programme, that attracted over one million visitors to the city last year, as well as the current Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition. We know our audiences will relish the opportunity to be inspired by the very best of modern and contemporary British art from the Collection."

James Green, Gallery Director, Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity to bring work from a world-class collection to audiences in Cornwall. The National Partner Programme will enable us to build on recent work exploring the civic role of the gallery and reimagine our relationship with communities in Penzance and further afield.



Sally Shaw, Director of Firstsite said: “Firstsite’s vision is to be an inspiring gallery that celebrates the people, places and priorities of Colchester, Essex and East Anglia. Through our artistic programme, we work to empower diverse people and communities to be creative together to lead healthier and happier lives. Our partnership with the Arts Council Collection offers an amazing opportunity to share the making of the artistic programme with all sorts of different people. With the process no longer hidden behind closed doors, we can give members of local community groups the opportunity to develop powerful connections to incredible artworks through the making of an exhibition, which will then be seen by thousands of people. Turning the exhibition making process inside out will create exhibitions which look and feel completely different, full of profound stories which relate to major international subjects.”

Jill Constantine, Director of the Arts Council Collection, said: "I'm delighted that Culture Sunderland, Firstsite and Newlyn Art Gallery will be our new partners in this next round of the National Partners Programme and look forward to building on the successes of the previous round to produce some great exhibitions.  Working with them means the Arts Council Collection will be able to reach an even wider public and allow those audiences to enjoy the very best of contemporary art in these very special galleries".

Peter Heslip, Arts Council England Director of Visual Arts, said “The Arts Council Collection is ‘our collection’ – it belongs to the nation. We are so pleased that the coming years of the National Partners’ Programme will enable a greater number and wider variety of people from across England’s enjoyment of innovative exhibitions of works from the Collection and engagement with the Collection digitally and online, as well as children and young people benefitting from targeted learning activities.”



The Arts Council Collection : National Partners Programme Round 2 Announcement
The Arts Council Collection : National Partners Programme Round 2 Announcement

Firstsite will work collaboratively with local community groups to co-curate exhibitions using the Arts Council Collection. The exhibitions will celebrate the diversity of Colchester, Essex and East Anglia and will explore different perspectives to artworks in this internationally renowned collection. Groups will include individuals who are marginalised and consequentially face multiple disadvantages. Firstsite will make exhibitions which speak to the whole of society and provoke conversations about contemporary life, the challenges faced, and the solutions which can be created together.

Sunderland Culture will become a national partner of the Arts Council Collection, from 2019 until 2022. The Collection  will form the basis of a dynamic and relevant exhibition programme which will reinforce Sunderland’s 50 year reputation in contemporary visual arts and connect the collection to diverse audiences who otherwise would have limited opportunities to experience it.

Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange will use the Arts Council Collection as part of its work, ‘New Voices’. The Collection will become a resource to explore the impact of giving a curatorial voice to different communities and individuals from Cornwall, voices that encompass the diversity of contemporary Britain.

Working with specialist agencies, they will create recruitment opportunities for applicants who often feel discouraged from applying for jobs in galleries, thus creating new entry routes into employment in the sector, promoting wider change.  

By utilising new inclusive curatorial approaches, taking the collection beyond their two sites, into the wider community and onto digital platforms; the Gallery will explore how to diversify audiences and how art and art institutions can perform a social and civic function to bring about meaningful change.

Find out more about the National Partners Programme here.


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.