GTG Online Forum Series: Improving Diversity in the Arts


Golden Thread Gallery is launching a series of events that will encompass webinars, talks and workshops, all focussed on widening participation within the arts sector and supported by the Community Foundation NI New Needs fund. Our first events are a series of three online discussion sessions. hosted by our New Needs intern Esther Andare.

The discussions will explore what improvements are needed in striving for more inclusivity and engagement for people from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background in the Arts – from visual art to dance, theatre, music, performance, photography, literature and beyond.

Our first discussion on 14th November is aimed at individuals of colour or who identify as part of a minority ethnic community, to discuss their personal experiences as audience members. It aims to create a space for a candid conversation to cover topics including:

  • The current state of diversity within the arts and Esther’s personal experiences
  • A discussion about possible strategies and best practices to increase inclusivity and community engagement
  • The term ‘BAME’ itself, and how it is used to group minorities

We will ask: ‘What should art galleries and organisations do and have in place to make you (Black, Asian and minority ethnic people) feel welcomed and encouraged to visit galleries?’

Future Sessions

Session 2 is aimed at Arts Organisations and will take place on Tuesday 24th November at 2pm. Seema Manchanda will lead the discussion of how organisations are currently addressing diversity. 

Session 3 is aimed at both Arts Organisations and Individuals, to combine the learning from the previous sessions and explore new tactics to increase diversity in the arts. It will take place on Thursday 10th December at 2pm. 

The gallery is keen on having these discussions openly to encourage different voices and perspectives to be heard.

The sessions will all take place via Zoom, and last approx an hour. Please email info@gtgallery.co.uk to book your place to join the discussions, or for any queries.

Supported by the Community Foundation NI New Needs Fund.

Black History Month – Celebrating Black Voices

GTG New Needs Intern Esther Andare writes to mark Black History Month in the UK.

Entering the later part of 2020, we are left to adapt our lives to the ‘new normal’ due to the pandemic, but also to deal and process with the aftermaths of the Black Lives Matter protests. These worldwide protests that are still ongoing in some states in America stemmed from the unjust killings of black people, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers.


Mural in honour of George Floyd in West Belfast, 2020

Growing up in England, Black History Month was never something that was overtly highlighted or celebrated.  To put it simply, there is a significant lack of representation within the educational system; Black British history is never taught and often substituted for a single lesson on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Not that these revolutionary historical figures should not be taught; however, they are not the be-all and end-all of black history. So, it is evident by the increased awareness of Black History Month this year, that things are changing, with major organisations such as Sainsbury’s and the Royal Mail partaking in spreading awareness. This leaves me with a glimmer of hope that momentum from all the protests over summer in terms of racial inequality has not been lost. However, more is needed than just symbolic gestures and acknowledgement of the month. There needs to be racial equality in all aspects of society and culture; more uncomfortable conversations had about the realities of being Black.

The commemoration of Black History Month in the U.K. began in 1987 by a Ghanaian analyst, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. His original goal was to use the month to create a cultural space in the U.K. Addai-Sebo whilst working at the Greater London Council, hosted Dr Maulana Karenga to talk about the contribution of black people throughout history month was first celebrated in London. Eventually, Black History Month was celebrated and recognised by local authorities and voluntary groups around the U.K.

Last week whilst going through the gallery archive, I came across the 2012 Main Space exhibition, Loss. The exhibition was curated with the collaboration of the Imperial War Museum and featured Jananne Al-Ani, Annabel Dover, Rozanne Hawksley and Steve McQueen. To commemorate Black History Month, I will discuss Steve McQueen and his work Queen and Country, which was shown with Loss.



Before going through the archives, I was only really aware of Sir Steve McQueen as the Director of the Oscar-winning film Twelve Years a Slave and upcoming T.V. miniseries Small Axe.  McQueen is also equally as talented an accomplished artist, he was the recipient of the Turner Prize in 1999 and currently has an exhibition at the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. McQueen is very vocal about racism within the arts and pushes for diversity amongst the art, particularly in the film industry. In a recent interview with Esquire where McQueen reflected on the killing of George Floyd, he also noted the conscious efforts that he went to put a person of a minority in every single department whilst filming Small Axe. Mainly because McQueen believed that ‘what’s behind the camera [diversity] should be reflected in front of the camera.’


Image courtesy Imperial War Museum (c) Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Queen and Country was made to both commemorate and remember the individuals that fought and died in the Iraq War.  In 2006 McQueen travelled to Basra in Iraq, spending six days embedded with British troops. The work was initially meant to be a film about the soldiers he spent time with; however, due to restrictions, McQueen found other ways to convey the Iraq conflict. McQueen created an oak cabinet that was mounted with double-sided panels. The panels displayed 168 stamps showing the soldiers on the sheets along with their names, regiments, dates of death. McQueen used stamps because of their beautiful scale, allowing the photo to be recognisable and stamps could go around the world. The poignant work looks into the loss of lives and how that translated into a national loss, and in the same breath, Queen and Country explores the idea of remembrance.


Queen & Country at the GTG in 2012

I find McQueen’s tribute to the dead soldiers to be incredibly poignant, due to the numbness that people feel about war and the deaths that are entrenched in war as stamps are such a public affair and would be seen by many people, forcing the viewers to confront the effect of war and remember the loss that comes with the conflict.

‘Conflict and loss are so intrinsically linked that the problem of how to remember, how to memorialise, is ever-present.” – Sir Steve McQueen


Watch Steve McQueen’s Mangrove on BBC iPlayer from the 15th November and Amazon Prime on the 20th of November. Mangrove is a part of a 5-episode miniseries anthology, Small Axe, depicting the lives of Black British people during the 1960s and 1980s.

Other Black History Month events in Northern Ireland:

ACSONI (African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland) Black History Month talk series starting on the 27th of October with Esther Stanford Xosei

U.K. Pivot’s BHM Poetry and Dialogue event on the 24th of October

Also, because Black Lives Matter everywhere around the world, follow the various hashtags and support the movements:

Nigeria #EndSARS – A movement is fighting against police brutality. As a result of the protest, the Nigerian government shot at unarmed civilians.

The Democratic Republic of Congo #Congoisbleeding – Due to armed groups fighting, there are thousands of Congolese people being murdered and displaced.

Zimbabwe #Zimbabweanlivesmatter – The government has turned into an Army state, attacking innocent citizens.

Namibia #ShutItAllDown #ShutItAllDownNamibia – Young people in Namibia have been protesting about ongoing gender-based violence. The protesters are demanding that the government take action to fix the problem.

GTG welcomes our Community Foundation NI New Needs Intern!


Thanks to support from the Community Foundation NI New Needs award, the Golden Thread Gallery has created a new paid internship role for an individual who identifies as a member of the Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Following interviews last month, we are delighted to welcome Esther Andare to the team!

“I’m Esther, the new BAME intern, I will be joining the gallery for six months. I’ve lived in Belfast for the past three years studying History at Queen’s. I’m headed into this role with the aim of improving participation of ethnic minorities at the GTG, and highlighting the work of often under-represented artists from an ethnic minority. I’m also excited to expand my knowledge of what happens behind the scenes of an art gallery!”

The internship is a training role which will include working with the gallery team and volunteers, liaising with artists and arts organisations, learning about arts funding in Northern Ireland and beyond, developing outreach activities, exhibition assistance, and visitor experience across the Gallery’s programme and range of activities.

Throughout the 6-month period as Esther gains experience and new skills across the gallery’s operations, she will also work with us to devise a new series of workshops, talks and online events specifically targeted at participants from Northern Ireland’s growing multi-ethnic communities.

We’re excited to have Esther on board, and look forward to working with her!

GTG Workshop: Create Cute Creatures with Sophie Daly


In today’s workshop, artist Sophie Daly shows you how to make adorable little creatures out of egg cartons. You have probably have been baking lots of treats with family recently. Put those egg cartons to good use by creating a turtle, ladybird or bee to play with!

Turtles, ladybirds and bees are so important to our planet. We can show them our appreciation through art and by protecting them.



You will need:

  • Egg carton(s)
  • A soft ball of some sort, out of clay or plastic etc
  • Cotton buds
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Paint brushes
  • Water for brushes
  • Paint

You can download a worksheet for each creature too! Which is your favourite?

You can learn more about ladybirds here

Learn about why we need to protect turtles here

And here are some top tips on how to help our bees!

Other ways to help the planet:

Let’s try and stamp out single use plastics. Try walking if you can, or go by bike! A better planet means a better future for all creatures great and small.

And of course, instead of throwing things away once they’re empty, use them to make art!

Supported by Community Foundation NI

GTG Workshop: Create an artist’s notebook!


In today’s virtual workshop, artist Sophie Daly will show you how to create your own beautiful and unique artist’s notebook – every artist needs one!

The emphasis today is on recycled materials. Be creative with what you have around you, and don’t let anything go to waste, nothing is ever useless! Finding creative ways to reduce what we throw away is a brilliant habit to help our planet.



You will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Scrap paper
  • Old books/newspapers/leaflets etc
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Needle and thread
  • Something pokey, like a screwdriver
  • A ruler and pencil

Many artists are now working with recycled or more sustainable materials, and using their art to draw attention to climate change and the need to look after our planet.

What else do you have that instead of being thrown away, could be re-used to make art? Send us your ideas!

GTG Workshop: Create a sun collage with Chloe Morrison


Today’s GTG Workshop is a colourful and fun activity for a cold and grey day – making a beautiful abstract sun collage, inspired by legendary African-American artist and teacher Alma Thomas. Chloe Morrison guides you through step-by-step, and you can download the worksheet too!

You will need:

  • A sheet of white paper or card
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Glue or Pritt Stick
  • A pair of suitable scissors
  • Coloured paper (alternatively, you can use paint sample cards, scraps of fabric, or magazine clippings)
  • A circular or cylindrical object to trace around, e.g., a tin, jar, glass, bottle or vase

About the artist

Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891 – 1978) was an African American abstract painter. Her works are renowned for their distinctive brushstrokes and exuberant use of colour. Alma Thomas applied vivid shades of paint to her canvases in short, precise patches, creating irregular, striking patterns. She would often arrange these marks in vertical stripes or concentric circles. 

In Thomas’s circular works, rings of colours appear to radiate out from a central point, like rays of light emanating from the sun.

Alma Thomas, The Eclipse, 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1978.40.3

You can see more of Alma Thomas’s paintings on the Smithsonian American Art Museum website.

Funded by Community Foundation NI.

GTG Artists Present: Aisling O’Beirn


Artist and Belfast School of Art lecturer Aisling O’Beirn has created this wonderful film collage tour of her studio, and a gallery of work for our latest edition of GTG Artists Present.



Aisling states that her work “explores relationships between politics, space and place, uncovering tensions between disparate forms of official and unofficial information. I examine space and place as physical structures and political entities through sculpture and animations relating to observed and theoretical structures being studied by contemporary astronomers and physicists.”


“I use a range of materials and process for installation and site-specific work, depending on context. Dialogue and discussion are key to participatory projects which have often involved long periods of research. The work is shown in galleries and a variety of public contexts.”

“I established dialogical relationships with astronomers at a range of institutions for recent projects focusing lay persons understandings of astronomy and theoretical physics. The body of work Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, was developed through ongoing dialogue with Armagh Observatory. Quaternion Quest resulted from work with Dunsink Observatory (The Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin) whilst Light Years from Here through The Centre for Astronomy NUIG, Galway.”

“These works explore ways laypersons attempt to understand scientific and political developments and how these articulate something of the political landscape. Failure and the unexpected are often integral to my processes, beginning projects from the stance of not knowing but seeking to understand. Dialogue, planning and long term engagement are key to this practice which evolves through both formal and metaphorical means. Many of my dialogical methods, interest in politics and pedagogy also extend from my roles as an art school lecturer and trade union rep.”

“With all these works I set myself the task of trying to understand difficult or abstract scientific problems using dialogue with astronomers through making, using the process of making to try to comprehend and discuss. When manipulating materials I have to physically and spatially grapple with various forces and phenomena such entropy, order, disorder and balance which can be understood both scientifically and politically. This making results in a variety of sculptural forms, whilst documenting the dialogical process of making, discussing, seeking feedback from scientists and modifying result in video works and animations.”


Aisling will also take over the GTG Instagram this weekend, with more insights into her work and inspirations!

GTG Artists Present is funded by Community Foundation NI.

Images Credits

  1. Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, installation shot MAC International 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo Simon Mills, Curated by Hugh Mulholland, MAC Belfast  Anne Barlow, Tate St Ives & Başak Şenova curator Crosssections
  2. 2) Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, installation shot MAC International 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo Simon Mills
  3. 3) Installation shot of Slices of Time in Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law. Photo Simon Mills
  4. 4) Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, Ursa Major, installation shot MCAC gallery 1, mixed media, dimensions variable, curated by J. Baker
  5. 5 Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, Uma Upsillion, curated by J. Baker
  6. Boolean Logic, Instillation shot and detail, salvaged timber, easel & drawing on Fabiano, dimensions variable, Glucksman, Cork, curated by F. Kearney
  7. Boolean Logic, Instillation shot and detail, salvaged timber, easel & drawing on Fabiano, dimensions variable, Glucksman, Cork
  8. Light Years From Here (622, Hirji: Albaset Dhanoon) , in Tulca, The Headless city, 2016, curated by Daniel Jewesbury
  9. Idir Iarracht agus Teip / Between Attempt and Failure, Danlann Dillon Belfast, ladders, easel, salvaged timbers and clamps, dimensions variable, installation shot 2016
  10. Quaternion Quest ‘The Bridge’, salvaged timber & clamps, dimensions variable, the LAB, Dublin 2014, curated by S. Barrett

GTG offering new BAME paid internship!


Closing date midnight Friday 4th September 2020.

The Golden Thread Gallery is pleased to announce that we are offering a new paid internship for an individual who identifies as a member of the Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, supported by funding from the Community Foundation NI New Needs fund. Previous experience in the Arts sector is not required, and there is no age limit for applicants.

The intern will provide assistance and support across the Gallery’s programme and range of activities. Responsible to the Senior Management, this training role will include working with the gallery team and volunteers, liaising with artists and arts organisations, learning about arts funding in Northern Ireland and beyond, general administration including financial procedures, developing outreach activities, exhibition assistance, and visitor experience. The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the work of the organisation, rather than taking on a purely shadowing role.

This role offers a fantastic training opportunity in one of Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary visual art galleries. For candidates, the internship could be either their first experience of a role in the Arts sector, or the ‘next step’ on from, for example, a volunteering role. Previous experience of working in the arts is not a requirement.

We intend this internship to provide mentoring and training for working in the arts for the successful BAME candidate, but also to work as an exchange, in which our intern can highlight to us what we need to do differently to reach BAME audiences and participants. Throughout the 6-month period as the intern gains experience and new skills across the gallery’s operations, they will also work with us to devise a series of workshops specifically targeted at BAME participants.

We will host a series of talks and discussions inviting people from across the Arts sector (visual arts, music, theatre, literature, dance) to see how we can work together to make the arts in Northern Ireland more accessible to BAME communities, and how we can attract BAME candidates to arts jobs in the sector. We do not have the expertise to do this on our own, as we do not presume to know the many specific needs and interests of this diverse and growing section of our population.

About the Golden Thread Gallery

Since its establishment in 2001, the Golden Thread Gallery (GTG) has built its reputation as a leading visual art provider through engagement with recent histories and re-imagined futures. As a contemporary visual art gallery, our purpose is to present innovative artistic programmes of high quality that embrace the breadth and variety of contemporary arts practice, and to develop, support and promote the work of contemporary Northern Irish artists and creative practice. Our motto with outreach has always been “Nothing about us without us”, meaning that we do not speak for communities, but rather work with them to devise projects that they want.

Key Info

  • Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday
  • Working Hours: 32hpw. Hours determined by a monthly rota and will include evenings and weekends. Applicants must be flexible to the needs of the organization.
  • Duration of Internship: 26 weeks
  • Salary: £8.75ph (full time equivalent £18,200)
  • Leave: 28 days annual holiday pro rata (including Bank Holidays)
  • Contract: This is a 6-month training position. Please note that this appointment is subject to continuing funding/grant aid, and the contract may terminate earlier if funding is withdrawn.

Please note: this role is specifically intended for a member of the Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic communities.

Application Packs can be downloaded below or emailed on request.

Closing date for applications is midnight on Friday 4th September 2020. Applications must be emailed to info@gtgallery.co.uk

Disclaimer: This document does not constitute an offer of employment nor forms any part of any contract.

FAQ

Why is this opportunity specifically for people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities?

No studies have been done in Northern Ireland to look at the cultural makeup of its workforces, but Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries was the first sociological study on social mobility in the cultural industries, released by Create London and Arts Emergency on April 16th, 2018. In it, it found that across the UK, in Museums, Galleries and Libraries only 2.7% of employees were from BAME backgrounds.

Given the tiny proportion of BAME communities in Northern Ireland, in order to help these communities #buildbackbetter we need to take direct action to include them in the Northern Irish visual arts sector.

Isn’t a BAME-only opportunity another kind of discrimination?

We don’t believe it is. This internship is designed to address an identified under-representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in certain roles in the Arts sector, particularly in Northern Ireland. This role is a paid training and development opportunity for a 6-month period, and is permitted under current legislation.

We know that BAME communities have been disadvantaged across every area of society, and in trying to reach diverse communities through our arts activities is it clear that this lack of representation is stopping us reaching BAME communities.

By taking this positive action to limit applicants to the internship to members of the BAME community, we will ensure that BAME needs and interests are given a voice in the Northern Irish visual arts sector.

I think the term ‘BAME’ is insulting and should not be used.

We understand that ‘BAME’ is seen by many people as an overly broad and clunky term, which doesn’t reflect the complexity of the many different categories that people may belong to, nor the many ethnicities and nationalities that it includes. We’re using it as an administrative term for brevity and clarity, as it is the most widely used term within the Arts sector and employment research. We hope to work with our successful candidate to find better language.

Do I need to have previous experience in the Arts sector to apply?

No, previous experience is not a requirement. We are looking for someone with a passion for the Arts who can make good use of this opportunity to develop their career, work with us to address issues around representation and bring us new ideas, but who may be at an early stage of their career or seeking a change of career. If you have transferable skills from other jobs and experience, an interest in the Arts and believe you could fulfil the role as described, you are welcome to apply.

Is there an age limit for candidates?

No, we welcome applications from candidates of any age for this role.

GTG Workshop: Draw like Yayoi Kusama with Chloe Morrison


Today’s brand new GTG Workshop explores the fantastical, colourful art of iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. She is known as the ‘princess of polka dots’, because although she makes many different kinds of art, from sculpture, installation, paintings and drawings, they always feature lots and lots and LOTS of dots!



Kusama was born in Japan in 1929, and while she was still a child she began to experience vivid hallucinations which included vast fields of flowers like dots. The very earliest work that she made using dots was a drawing of a Japanese woman in a kimono, believed to be her mother, covered by dots – created when Kusama was only 10 years old.

She moved to America in the 1950s and became an important part of the avant-garde movement in New York. She was very productive over the next decade but because of widespread sexism in the art world, she struggled to gain widespread recognition and success. Kusama also had to watch some male artists get success and acclaim from copying her ideas – including Andy Warhol! Understandably, this was extremely frustrating and depressing for Kusama, and she moved back to Japan and didn’t make any new art for several years.

But in the late 1970’s she returned to making art from her new home in a hospital in Japan. Then in 1989 a very important exhibition looking back at her work and her huge influence on other artists was held in New York at the Center for International Contemporary Arts, organised by curator Alexandra Munroe which helped to bring Yayoi Kusama’s work back into the spotlight.


Yayoi Kusama at work in her studio, in front of her painting The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe. Photograph: Yayoi Kusama Studio

Now, Yayoi Kusama she is now the world’s biggest-selling female artist, her work is instantly recognisable worldwide, and an entire museum dedicated to her art opened in Tokyo in 2017! And she still uses DOTS!

Singapore Biennale on Orchard Road, Singapore August 2006, by Sengkang used under Creative Commons

GTG Workshops are funded by Community Foundation NI.

GTG Artists Present: Ursula Burke


The Golden Thread is delighted to continue our series of new short films by artists reflecting on their work with a piece by Irish artist Ursula Burke.

Ursula’s film ‘From Canova to De Chirico’ looks at the integration of the classical and the surreal in her art.



About the Artist

Ursula Burke is an Irish artist who works in a variety of media including Porcelain Sculpture, Embroidery Sculpture and Drawing.

She currently has a solo exhibition at the Ulster Museum titled A False Dawn. She recently undertook an artist residency at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris and a solo exhibition also titled A False Dawn.

She is winner of the Golden Fleece Award and the Visual Artists Ireland Suki Tea Award – March 2018. She undertook an artist residency and group exhibition titled So It Is with the Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh, Jan – April 2017 and was awarded the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British School at Rome Fellowship in 2014. She is Joint Prize Winner of the Claremorris Open, Ireland 2015. Solo Exhibitions include The Precariat, The RHA Gallery, Dublin 2018; The Precariat, The Dock Arts Centre, Leitrim; Solo representation at Supermarket Art Fair Stockholm by Ormston House Limerick, March 2017; ‘Vestiges’ at Ormston House, Limerick September 2016 & ‘Vestige’ at the Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin, during May 2016.

She undertook a major solo exhibition titled ‘Hope for a Better Past’ with the MAC Belfast, 2013 and worked with the National Portrait Gallery London on ’National Memories local Stories’ project during the same year. She is an Associate Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


GTG Artists Present is funded by Community Foundation NI