Grizedale Arts is an arts organisation based at the historic site of Lawson Park farm, high above the Coniston valley in the English Lake District. Present director Adam Sutherland lives at Lawson Park, where visiting and resident artists are hosted by the organisation, and where creative and productive uses for the surrounding farm land are developed. We also have an office in the Coniston Institute in the village of Coniston, some 3 miles / 5 km away.
Grizedale Arts grew from The Grizedale Society’s 1969 - 1999 programme of site-specific forest sculpture and land art activity in the Grizedale Forest, notable for its commissioning of sculptors such as Andy Goldsworthy and David Nash. With the appointment of Adam Sutherland in 2000, Grizedale Arts became a more experimental organisation, generating cultural activity of all kinds at a local, national and international level.
Underpinning our programme is a philosophy that art and artists can affect change and benefit wider culture and society. Over the last two decades Grizedale Arts has become an acclaimed and influential model for a new kind of art institution, one that works beyond the established structures of the contemporary art world. We are light-footed, unbureaucratic and responsive to opportunities for us to connect with like-minded organisations and people all over the world, whether these are artists and arts organisation or not. Central to our ethos is the pursuit of valuable function for art, which we explore through commissioning, curating, making and education. This means that many of our projects put craft skills, collaborative production and the expertise of non-artists at centre stage.
Our headquarters at Lawson Park are a productive smallholding and working farmhouse of 14th origin, refurbished by Sutherland Hussey Architects in 2009, with a multifaceted programme of informal and formal events, projects and residencies. Visiting artists and volunteers are core to what we are able to achieve at this challenging upland site, bringing fresh ideas from their varied backgrounds and much-appreciated assistance in the upkeep of over 5 acres of biodiverse meadow, fruit and vegetable production, and decorative gardens.
Participating in farming, gardening, and growing a wide range of food is central to the ethos of the programme, and informs the way we work together while on site. A communal lunch is often drawn from food growing at Lawson Park, cooked by whoever volunteers to do so, and served each day at 1pm. Horticulture, hospitality and food production provide a useful model for working collaboratively both on site and elsewhere.
We have 4 visitor bedrooms, with spacious kitchens and social spaces, including our unique Lawson Park Library. Everything at Lawson Park is part of an evolving project. Its interior and exterior ‘contents’ - furnishings, books and plants - are selected to form a continually developing collection, regularly augmented and archived to make public and accessible their meaning and relevance.
Lawson Park’s identity as a rural farm connects us meaningfully with the cultures of the area - most obviously with agriculture - and encourages us to develop dynamic and creative approaches to issues that emerge from the geographical context we share locally. We engage with the complexities of operating in an much-visited yet rural environment, and with its often conflicting stakeholders. Visiting artists, writers, academics, curators, students, architects, designers and crafts people can work directly with our location and our neighbouring communities - holding events and activities that are collisions between arts, community, political or economic thinking and practice. Or, we are often invited to produce a creative project abroad, with commissioners or partners, and to export our way of doing things into a new context that it can benefit.