Dr. Loraine Leeson is a visual artist whose research focuses on the role of art in social and environmental change through bringing community-based knowledge into the public domain. Early work included photo-murals, posters, video and exhibition for the health campaigns and the Docklands Community Poster Project in the1980s. In subsequent decades work with East London communities addressed the impact of change in the urban environment on quality of life and cultural identity. This was followed by a series of online projects children and teenagers, which attracted a Media Trust Inspiring Voices award and Olympic Inspire Mark, while a public artwork The Catch involving three hundred young people in Barking was voted a London 2012 Landmark. Recent work has involved communities in addressing environmental concerns.
For two decades Loraine was director of the arts charity cSPACE, led the strategy group Arts for Labour for five years and continues as chair of the film and video production and training centre Four Corners. A retrospective exhibition celebrating thirty years of her practice toured Berlin, London, Toronto and Dublin 2005-08. 2017 saw her 1970s photomontage work in support of health campaigns exhibited at ICA London and the Routledge publication of her monograph Art:Process:Change – inside a socially situated practice. She was Fulbright Scholar in residence at University of Washington in 2011 and since that time has taught Fine Art Social Practice in the Department of Visual Arts at Middlesex University.
Research and knowledge exchange work includes Active Energy, a twelve-year initiative with seniors group The Geezers, which focused on renewable energy, while Jal! an interdisciplinary project in 2018 with artists in Rajasthan addressed issues of water shortage in desert regions. A current project The Art of Healing with creative practitioners in Kashmir is using the arts to support children who have suffered traumatic experience in militarized zones while another Spaces of Hope is investigating hidden histories of community-led planning and the role that arts can play in this. The Art of Engagement: foundations for an international learning community in social practice, in collaboration with the Tate, Queens Museum and City University New York, is investigating how the teaching of social practice can be improved for arts practitioners through partnership between cultural and higher education institutions. Active Energy received the 2016 RegenSW Arts and Green Energy award and in 2022 the Times Higher Education award for Knowledge Exchange.
Teaching and Supervising
Module leader for exit degree BA Fine Art Social Practice
Specialist pathway in social practice Year 2 BA Fine Art
PhD supervision/ Director of Studies relating to research in social practice
Programme leader for MA Art and Social Practice 2016-2018
2023 External examiner (PhD) Dept. Art History and Visual Culture, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Loughborough University
2022 External examiner (PhD) Belfast School of Art, University of Ulster
2022 External examiner (PhD) School of Business & Creative Industries, University of the West of Scotland
2017-2021 External examiner for MA Art and Social Practice, University of Highlands and Islands
2020 External assessor for appointments, Department of Creative and Festival Arts, University of the West Indies
2020 External examiner (PhD) Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University
2019 External examiner (PhD) School of Creative Arts and Design, Loughborough University
2019 External examiner (PhD) Department of Art, University of Reading
2017 Member of advisory committee for appointments to the Serra Húnter Programme, Autonomous University of Barcelona.
2015 External examiner for PhD in Art History and Cultural Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
2014 External examiner for PhD in Environmental Studies, York University Toronto
2013 International PhD referee/assessor, University of Catalunya
Publishing on Social Practice Pedagogy
‘Active Energy – art practice into pedagogy’ in Provocations, Pedagogy, and Other Strategies for Teaching Ecological Art, International Ecoart Network.(2022).
Duman, A. Leeson, L. 2018, ‘Experience as Art: Fine Art Social Practice Modules at Middlesex University’.
‘Experience as Art: Fine Art Social Practice Modules at Middlesex University’ in Art as Social Action, Allworth Press, New York. (2018). Collaboration with Alberto Duman.
‘Giving More Than You Take: a conversation about the ethics, responsibilities and practicalities of facilitating student participation in community-based projects’ in The Tetley Feast, Leeds College of Art. (2015).
My research focuses on the role of art in social and environmental change through bringing community-based knowledge into the public domain.
I welcome applications for PhD supervision relating to research in social practice, particularly where this is practice-led.
Recent and current projects include:
The Art of Healing follow-on: Impact and Engagement 2022-23
Enhancing the value and benefit of previously-funded AHRC research through new interactions and knowledge exchange with user communities in conflict areas. With University of West of England and schools in Kashmir.
The Art of Engagement: Foundations for an international learning community in social practice 2022-23
PI on AHRC networking project with The Tate Gallery (COI) and partners Queens Museum and City University New York. https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/projects/art-of-engagement-international-learning-social-practice
Spaces of Hope: The Hidden History of Community Led Planning 2021-23
Interdisciplinary project with Oxford Brookes University investigating the benefits of community-led planning. https://www.peoplesplans.org
The Art of Healing in Kashmir 2020-21
Interdisciplinary project with University of West of England, artist, art therapist and school in India's Kashmir region. The project uses creative methods to support children traumatised by events in a previously militarised zone. http://artofhealing.org.uk
Active Energy: Three Mills 2008 – 2020
An intergenerational project with The Geezers seniors group and an extended interdisciplinary team to harness tidal energy from the Thames. www.active-energy-london.org.
JAL! Celebrating Cultures of Water in Rural Rajasthan 2018
CoI/ Lead Artist in AHRC networking project to bring the arts to bear on urgent issues of water conservation in Rajasthan’s desert regions https://rajasthanwater.weebly.com.
Hydrocitizenship 2014 -17
Artist consultant on AHRC funded project led by Bath Spa University. The project explored roles for the arts in investigating how citizens and communities live with each other and their environment in relation to water. https://www.hydrocitizenship.com
Lambeth Floating Marsh 2014 - 15
Art/science collaboration addressing issues of biodiversity through construction of a floating reed bed on the River Thames with moving images of river organisms projected along the Thames embankment. https://cspace.org.uk/category/cspace-projects/lambeth-floating-marsh/https://cspace.org.uk/category/cspace-projects/lambeth-floating-marsh/
A more comprehensive account of my research and practice can be found at www.cspace.org.uk and in my monograph Art:Process:Change – inside a socially situated practice (Routledge, 2017).
Buser, Michael and Brännlund, Emma and Holt, Nicola and Leeson, Loraine and Mytton, Julie (2023) Creating a difference – a role for the arts in addressing child wellbeing in conflict-affected areas. Arts & Health . ISSN 1753-3015
Leeson, Loraine (2022) Make a difference: collaboration and participation in arts-led research. THE Campus .
Leeson, Loraine (2022) Active Energy: bringing local knowledge into the public realm. In: WEAD Art and Education No. 5: Ecoart in Action: Fostering Social and Ecological Change, 22 May 2022, Online.
Leeson, Loraine (2022) Arts in regeneration: from creative community-led planning to institutional instrumentalism in East London [Blog post]. People’s Plans - Exploring the Hidden Histories of Community-led Planning in the UK.
Leeson, Loraine (2022) Active Energy: Bringing local knowledge into the public realm. In: Ecoart in Action: Activities, Case Studies, and Provocations for Classrooms and Communities. Geffen, Amara and Rosenthal, Ann and Freemantle, Chris and Rahmani, Aviva , eds. New Village Press, New York, pp. 363-371. ISBN 9781613321478
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