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Wysing Arts Centre, located on the edge of the village of Bourn in south Cambridgeshire, has been at the vanguard of providing ways to support artists to make new work and reach new audiences for the last twenty five years.

In 1989, what was then Wysing Grange Farm, was purchased with the intention of developing the site for low cost studio space for visual artists. Intially  known as Wysing Arts, the organisation was founded by Jenny and Terry Brooks, who are still active members of its Board of Trustees, and the artists Annie and Age Bunnetat. Together, they set about transforming its barns and outbuildings into studios and later organising occasional exhibitions and events, including an annual exhibition of kinetic sculpture, in Wysing's grounds. A gallery was converted from an old hay shed and a regular programme of artistic activity began.

History

Wysing became a registered charity in 1994 and employed its first Director, Trystan Hawkins, that year. Over the subsequent nine years Trystan developed the organisation's governance, secured its status as a Regularly Funded Organisation of Arts Council, and developed the site and a public artistic programme. In 2001 Trystan began a process of development that would lead to a £1.7 million capital project to build new artists' studios. After many delays, the project finally began in 2007.

Current Artistic Director (Chief Executive Officer) Donna Lynas was recruited in 2005 to re-define Wysing's artistic direction and role within the arts in the UK and internationally, alongside securing significant funding to ensure the organisation's long-term future. Donna also delivered a capital development project, which opened in January 2008 and which subsequently won a RIBA (Royal Insititute of British Architects) Award. The RIBA judges said of the transformed Wysing:

"The first view of Wysing Arts Centre approaching from Bourn is stunning, demonstrating in an instant that the architects have fulfilled the client brief to produce a ‘serious building’ and to raise the profile of the Arts Centre. Simple construction, natural ventilation, use of natural daylight and thoughtful detailing all contribute to a building which is direct and sophisticated. The black, ordered rectilinear elevation has the simplicity of a Dutch barn but the sophistication of a more complex building. Stunning architecture in the most unexpected location."

In 2011 Wysing was accepted into Arts Council England's National Portfolio and in the same year the organisation joined the prestigeous Plus Tate Network. Wysing has also led the regional CVAN East network since 2009.

Since 2010 an intrinsic part of working at Wysing is the discussion, debate and contextualisation of ideas through a public talks and events programme, central to which is the contribution of a diversity of experts from neighbouring Cambridgshire villages, from the city and University of Cambridge, and beyond. The programme expands ideas, taking them into the wider world, to be influenced by, and influence, thinking in other spheres and specialisms. 

The Wysing of 2014 operates an alternative model of working in which artists can think, debate and make, without defined outcomes and in response to individual needs. At Wysing, artists develop ideas and make new work within programmes that include residencies for artists, art writers and musicians; retreats and masterclasses; a unique summer school for young artists; a studio programme and live/work studio space.

Curatorial staff within Wysing work directly with artists, supporting them in the development and realisation of their ideas, the emphasis being on the artist and latent new work rather than the contextualisation of previous work through gallery exhibitions. The gallery instead is used a site of experimentation for work-in-progress and as a location for consolidating some of the ideas being explored by artists during the time they are based at the centre.

 

Alongside the many artists who have been involved with Wysing over the years and who have brought their energies, insights and artistic networks to the organisation, notably Andy Holden and Giles Round, Wysing has provided a platform for a number of curatorial staff: Sebastian Ramirez (2006-2008), Lotte Juul Petersen (2008-present), Elinor Morgan (2010-2012), Gareth Bell-Jones (2010-2014) and Kathy Noble (2013-2014).

Since 2009 Wysing has worked in partnership with the Royal College of Art's MA in Curating Contemporary Art on the curation of a series of artistic retreats, and other projects, that have provided a platform for emerging curators.

From 2015, and in looking forward to the next 25 years, Wysing will build new partnerships and collaborations to further develop opportunities for artists, curators, musicians and art writers and will build new audiences for art in new ways.