Leeds Arts University students unveil award-winning art at Kirkstall Forge

CEG has commissioned 20 pieces of artwork for its prototype homes at Kirkstall Forge as part of a competition with Leeds Arts University students.

More than 80 applied from a wide variety of courses ranging from textile design and fine art to illustration, animation and photography.

Aisling Ramshaw, head of sales and marketing at Kirkstall Forge, said; “The entire ethos of Kirkstall Forge is “Different by Design.” Nestled in the river valley and surrounded by woodland, yet only six minutes from the city centre by train, it offers an exceptional place to live and work and we wanted this to be reflected in artwork displayed.

“We needed unique pieces of artwork for our architect designed homes. They could reflect the history of the site as the oldest continually commercial site in the UK or its future as one of the most sustainable and technologically advanced places to live and work.

“We were delighted by the calibre and range of paintings, textiles, photography and digital artworks entered and it was very difficult to shortlist the entries. We have selected 20 of the most vibrant, striking and individual pieces which reflect the way that every detail of the design of this special place has been considered.”

The project is designed to help students not only be creative but also enhance their commercial acumen. From the interpretation and delivery of their work through to their negotiation skills in agreeing a budget and working closely with the client to finalise the piece.

Andrew Jones, Head of Careers, Employability & Enterprise, Leeds Arts University, explains: “At Leeds Arts University we facilitate access to the arts and creative industries throughout our range of specialist courses, whether through talks and mentoring delivered by sector professionals, work placements, industry events or live, commercial briefs.
“The combination of innovative and sustainable planning and design along with industrial local heritage at Kirkstall Forge, captured the imaginations of students from across the University, making Leeds Arts University’s partnership with CEG a particularly successful and rewarding example of a live, commercial brief for our students.”

Susan Daubney, who is studying a BA (Hons) Fine Art L6 at Leeds Arts University, added: “As the Kirkstall Forge brief was the first time I had submitted any work for external consideration I found the whole process very interesting and a useful insight into the industry for an emerging artist. There was a huge amount of clarity in the brief as to what the client’s requirements were and I found this extremely helpful. My artwork submission was digitally produced using my original paintings and the final piece was light, airy and vibrantly colourful and intended to be reflective of the natural surroundings and modern contemporary styling of the new homes at the Kirkstall Forge site. My design was able to be reproduced in various colourways which could be representative of the seasons, location or decor.”

Claire Collen, Access to HE Diploma student, said: “My decision to apply rested largely on the fact that I had already completed a similar challenge the year before: for my final project on the DIVA course I had designed and made an enamelled panel depicting the history of the textile mill next-door to my house. The requirements of the Kirkstall Forge brief suggested to me that I could again design and make an enamelled panel, this time describing the history of the forge. Having no experience of ever being commissioned to make anything, this was always going to be a huge challenge for me.
“Apart from the financial reward, I gained enormous confidence as a result of firstly putting in an application and then undertaking the commission according to the specifications. I learned a great deal about the initial steps of tackling the subject matter, submitting a proposal, developing my design, shaping that design to fulfil the requirements of the brief and completing and presenting the work within a relatively short time-scale. The brief certainly challenged me to step right outside my comfort zone and be brave enough to offer work to be judged by others. The whole process gave me my first glimpse into the professional world of an artist.”

Ekaterina Sheath, BA (Hons) Illustration L5 added: “The pieces I created were based on reportage drawings I did on location while at Kirkstall Forge. After reading the brief I felt that the landscape and history surrounding the area was integral to the project and wanted to experience it for myself. I spent a beautiful day walking along the canal, learning about the locks from a local volunteer and munching on fruit cake with a couple passing by on their barge. The project allowed me to explore a new part of Leeds! I was extremely pleased to have won the commission as it has given me a brilliant opportunity to develop my portfolio and own practise.”

At 57-acres, Kirkstall Forge it is one of the largest brownfield sites under development in the north and the most ambitious scheme in the Leeds development pipeline. Its 800-year industrial heritage is paving the way for a thriving mixed-use community set in a wooded riverside valley. Ultimately the site will deliver 1,050 new homes, 300,000 sq ft of offices and 100,000 sq ft of retail, leisure and community space.

The prototype homes offer a unique style of architecture resembling the local stone of the old forge building and Kirkstall Abbey, space and light are maximised with high ceilings and tall windows. Open plan living opens out onto gardens and terraces across different floors, with many roof verandas providing fantastic views of the valley. The winning artworks are now displayed throughout the homes.

CEG’s decision to ensure Kirkstall Forge is ‘Different by Design’ has paid off to date; with the opening of a new railway station to connecting this development site to Leeds City Centre in just six minutes, followed swiftly by a 110,000 sq ft office development which was 90% let less than a year from completion, securing the prestigious British Council of Offices best UK ‘Commercial Workplace’ award.

A dedicated Kirkstall Forge Life team has already been established and runs regular health and fitness events, social activities, walking and biking clubs, as well as managing cycle and scooter hire and encouraging the 1,000 people who already work at the site to travel sustainably using the new on-site railway station, car share scheme, EV charging points and tailored travel guide service.


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