Art of Ayresome
By Rob Nichols
Friday 07 Aug 2020 12:49:00
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Art of Ayresome has been an awesome virtual exhibition pulled together by Boro fan and historian, Dr Tosh Warwick. Compiled initially to mark the 25th anniversary of Middlesbrough's final season at Ayresome Park Tosh has brought the many artists inspired by our former ground to the 21st century audience. It was a colourful slice of Middlesbrough nostalgia that lit up lockdown and brought the Boro into our homes at a time when we were being driven up the four walls.

I had to ask Tosh a few questions about the awesome Ayresome artwork.

Mackenzie Thorpe

How did the art exhibition start?

Art of Ayresome was conceived of during the year-long celebrations in collaboration with Middlesbrough FC marking 25 years since Boro’s last season at Ayresome Park. I was aware that there were a number of examples of Boro-inspired artwork by today’s artists and some brilliant caricatures and plans from the collections of Middlesbrough Libraries and Teesside Archives. Art of Ayresome has brought this historic and contemporary work together to celebrate the famous old ground.

Did you plan this before lockdown or was it always a virtual idea?

Art of Ayresome was developed during the early stages of COVID-19 lockdown and was conceived to be a digital gallery that could be mobilised remotely and could bring art to people in their homes and provide an informative, entertaining, free resource during these difficult times.

You have brought art to people that might not go into a gallery?

The feedback on the exhibition has suggested that many who have visited the online gallery have gained new appreciation and awareness of artists featured in the collections. It is also encouraging that many have been able to view, digitally for the first time, the original Archibald Leitch plans for Ayresome Park from the collections of Teesside Archives.

Archibald Leitch

Have people said you have helped them through lockdown?

The feedback has suggested that the exhibition has provided a welcome reprieve from the challenges of staying at home. Through the online Visitor Book and Feedback Questionnaire we have been able to gain an understanding of some of the benefits of bringing academic research and art collections together online in collaboration with Middlesbrough FC. Much of the feedback has revealed the exhibition has brought back memories, whilst others have revealed Art of Ayresome has brought a ‘feeling of belonging, unity with like-minded people’ and ‘breathed life into social isolation of lockdown’ as an ‘uplifting exhibition at a difficult time for many.’ For me, the fact that we have helped engage people with the club’s and town’s heritage and helped lift spirits during these challenging times has been the most satisfying element of the exhibition to date.

Boro has inspired so many artists over the years - were you surprised at how many and how much quality and also the many different mediums?

It has been fantastic to discover and bring to wider attention artistic works that depicted Boro stars and life at Ayresome Park over the decades - art has certainly been a constant throughout the club’s history. The range of work captures the Boro story in diverse ways spanning the early caricatures of Fred May and Key Card illustrations of the interwar years, programme artwork throughout the decades, artist-in-residence sculptures in the 1980s, and recent creations by today’s artists including those by fans for inclusion Art of Ayresome submitted through the exhibition’s ‘Ayresome Art Club’ initiative.

Fred May

Boro inspires artists like fans doesn't it?

The exhibition has really driven home how central Boro has been in inspiring so many artists throughout the decades. Art of Ayresome’s participatory ‘Ayresome Art Club’ which invites fans to submit their own artwork has highlighted that there are many people inspired by the club’s years at Ayresome Park and we hope to continue this by working with schools and community groups through collaboration with the fantastic MFC Foundation.

Who did all the technical work Tosh the site is a joy to navigate etc?

The team at Middlesbrough Football Club have been absolutely fantastic in bringing the exhibition and broader Ayresome Memories activities together that I have worked on with Shaun Wilson during the anniversary year. Artist Gordon Dalton also provided some really helpful tips in bringing the exhibition together, whilst Middlesbrough Libraries, MIMA and Teesside Archives have provided invaluable access to their collections.

What now for the exhibition?

The online exhibition has proved to be a great success in not only showcasing artwork by established artists together for the first time but also in inspiring others to create and share their own creations. We are in the early stages of making plans for an exhibition to be held in Middlesbrough if we are able to secure funding and host this in a safe manner alongside social distancing regulations. Hopefully there will be some progress on this in the coming weeks and months and Art of Ayresome can help bring back memories and inspire new artworks by new audiences.




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