Councillor Parekh at the launch of the Millennium Gallery’s Dutch Flower Paintings exhibition
Councillor Parekh at the launch of the Millennium Gallery’s Dutch Flower Paintings exhibition

Beam, a northern-based cultural development organisation, has released a new report on increasing diversity in the arts and culture sector. 

Beam’s report, ‘Building a More Diverse and Inclusive Public Art Sector’, was researched and written by Nottingham-based independent creative engagement manager and consultant, Boseda Olawoye, in close consultation with freelance practitioners and organisations. It explores the barriers underrepresented artists are facing and how the sector can be made fairer and more equitable, including looking to what support and training is needed for under-represented artists. 

Photograph of the report from Bream entitled ‘Building a More Diverse and Inclusive Public Art Sector’
Photograph of the report from Bream entitled ‘Building a More Diverse and Inclusive Public Art Sector’

Some of the recommendations are:

  • Having more accessible application processes for public art commissions, including using video and audio formats;
  • Including local residents into public realm projects early in the process, to build trust with communities;
  • the sector having a more targeted approach to engage and support under-represented artists working in or interested in applying for public realm projects, including advisory groups by and for artists and producers of colour;
  • reviewing how local authorities commission public art, including encouraging local artists from diverse backgrounds to apply for public realm work;
  • supporting career development for early career artists from working class backgrounds, including through paid mentoring opportunities

Beam said:

‘We fully recognise that this research is a snapshot and there is still much more to be done, but it does highlight some of the key challenges artists working in the public realm are facing. 

‘We are committed to using this research as a stimulus for change, both within our own processes and by engaging more artists and organisations in a wider conversation to explore how together we can foster a more diverse and inclusive sector.’

Boseda Olawoye said

‘It was a real privilege to spend time actively listening to the experiences of diverse artists and producers from across the UK about their experiences of working in the public realm. 

‘For me it was really important to create a safe space for everyone, but particularly under-represented artists to be able to give their honest feedback and insights about what a diverse and inclusive sector could be. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next stage of work will be, developed in response to the report.’

Recent research found that the arts industry was among Sheffield’s fastest growing sectors, expanding 6.99% between 2018 and 2022.

In recent years, Sheffield City Council has sought to take a more proactive approach to arts and culture, adopting an interim culture strategy devised by the Sheffield Culture Collective last September, and its Economic Development and Skills policy committee is currently developing a long-term Culture Strategy with support from the Arts Council.

Developing a new culture strategy is being seen by key city institutions as proof that Sheffield is serious about attracting private sector funding to the city.

Councillor Minesh Parekh, Labour’s lead for Economic Development, Culture and Skills, said: 

“A thriving culture sector is at the heart of our city; our museums, theatres and art galleries make Sheffield the fantastic place to live and work that it is. 

“Clearly, nationwide, there’s work to do to increase access to the sector and create more opportunities for well-paid and rewarding employment—particularly for working class people and people of colour. I hope through our developing Culture Strategy the council can work with cultural organisations across Sheffield to bolster our creative industries and unlock transformational opportunities for the city.”

Sheffield City Council has adopted a Race Equality Commission, which sets out a course to become an anti-racist city. Recommendation 5 of the REC report, ‘Celebrating Sheffield Through Sport and Culture: Past, Present and Future’, set out a commitment to increase ‘the diversity of curation, programming, and audiences’, and new ‘programmes for under-represented ethnic artists, makers, creatives and producers.’ The recommendations of the REC report are being factored into the developing culture strategy.


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