Art partnership sealed between gallery and university


A major arts partnership is being cemented in West Yorkshire with a key new appointment.

The University of Leeds and The Hepworth Wakefield contemporary art gallery have long been collaborators on a wide range of activities, many of them focused on helping young people from both Wakefield and the University to build careers in the arts.

The two organisations recently signed a memorandum of understanding to formalise their affiliation and build on activities aimed at boosting the creative industries in West Yorkshire.

Now, respected cultural commentator and Hepworth Wakefield trustee John Holden has been named The Hepworth Wakefield Visiting Professor in the University’s School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. He will develop the relationship further.

“I’m looking forward to strengthening the great links that already exist between these two great institutions and to help the partnership grow and flourish,” he said.

Professor Holden is an Associate at the influential think tank Demos, where he was Head of Culture for eight years. He has been involved in many major projects within the cultural sector across libraries, music, museums, the performing arts and film.

He has addressed issues of leadership, cultural policy, culture and international relations, evaluation and organisational development, working with governments, cities, cultural agencies and organisations such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Tate, the V&A and the British Museum. 

Professor Holden has also given keynote speeches on culture at home and abroad, from the US and Canada to Japan and Australia. He has been a trustee of The Hepworth Wakefield since it opened in 2011 and has served on various advisory boards at the University of Oxford, the Royal Opera House, the Design Museum, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Professor Frank Finlay is heading up plans for a new Cultural Institute at the University of Leeds, as well as serving on the steering group spearheading the city’s bid to be named European Capital of Culture 2023. 

He said: “Working with The Hepworth Wakefield allows us to explore exciting new research questions in a collaborative way with a partner beyond academia. It also provides access to a cultural organisation of international standing for our students and academics.

“Students and researchers are offered the potential to think beyond the gallery walls and explore the world of visual arts and its audiences in unconventional ways.”

Simon Wallis OBE, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said: “John is the perfect person to ensure a fruitful ongoing collaboration between the gallery and the University.  He embodies the ambitious spirit of creative cooperation we are nurturing in the Leeds City Region, to ensure its cultural offer grows its local, national and international standing and that it plays a key part in developing our economy. 

“John knows first-hand how education and culture add significantly to the new opportunities the creative industries are forging in the Leeds City Region.”

Dr Abigail Harrison Moore, Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, said: “‘We have worked with the Hepworth Wakefield ever since it opened but we are now formalising that relationship to reflect the fact that we have been doing so much amazing work with them over the past few years, working with young people who aspire to have a career within the cultural industries.

“Through the education outreach programme, we work with schools in Wakefield and, focusing on art and art history in the gallery space, we encourage the young people to develop their skills around confidence, public speaking and research. We look forward to developing our existing partnership with The Hepworth Wakefield now it has been formalised and we are delighted to welcome John Holden as a Visiting Professor to the School.”

The University has existing mutually beneficial partnerships with a number of organisations, from Opera North and Marks & Spencer to Santander and Procter & Gamble. Find out about these strategic partnerships

Further information

For images and interviews, contact University of Leeds press officer Gareth Dant on 0113 343 3996 or