The University of Salford Art Collection Team recognised as sustainability champions with two Green Impact National Awards

The Team has been awarded two Green Impact National Awards: Innovation for Engagement and Sustainability Hero, for their continuing commitment to
sustainability action and engagement.

Every year, Green Impact Special Awards are given out across the country to people and teams who go above and beyond for sustainability. These Special Award winners are then put forward for consideration for the Green Impact National Awards. This year, the Salford Art Collection Team received two national awards!

The first one – Innovation for Engagement – recognises ways in which Green Impact teams have engaged more people in sustainability activities, supporting staff and students to learn about and lead on sustainability. This award spotlights creative innovation in the engagement: the more people we can actively engage, the bigger the positive impact we can make.

The Salford Art Collection Team, led by Team Assistant Rowan Pritchard, won thanks to the largest outreach and impact, international engagement and multiple stakeholders in their programmes and projects. At the end of last year, the Team also won a Platinum Green Impact award for their sustainability efforts within their department, including ​​​​​​implementing an office switch-off campaign to save energy, ensuring the use of reusable items such as bags and packaging, and introducing plants to green up the office.

There’s a clear commitment to sustainability in the Team’s programme and way of working. The main sustainability actions taken by the Team to win the awards include:

  • The ‘Are You Living Comfortably?’ photography project, showcasing work from artists McCoy Wynne, created through a pilot artists residency the Team hosted with the University’s Energy House facility and in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. The artwork, created in response to themes of climate change, energy efficiency and retrofitting, has been on display in both Liverpool and Salford during 2022, alongside displays of research materials, videos, and a series of online events and more to engage audiences of thousands. The work was also selected to feature online in the COP26 showcase, and has since gone on loan to Bury Art Museum.
McCoy Wynne, Are You Living Comfortably? 2021. Image courtesy Artist.
  • The ‘You Belong Here: Rediscovering Salford’s Green Spaces’ exhibition, displayed at Salford Museum & Art Gallery, was launched as part of the city-wide ‘Rediscovering Salford’ programme, encouraging audiences of over 16,000 to reconsider and reconnect with the green spaces around them through exciting newly commissioned artworks in response to Salford’s parks and green spaces. Alongside the exhibition, the Team ran a programme of engagement including tours, talks, and workshops to encourage participants to engage with their own local environments and reconnect with the nature around them. The exhibition was led on behalf of the Salford Culture and Place Partnership, and the wider project was generously supported by Arts Council England and Suprema Lex.
Rediscovering Salford: You Belong Here, Installation view. Rourke Heiss Photography.

  • The Peer to Peer: UK/HK 2022 project, led by the Team in collaboration with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, supported 9 UK visual arts organisations and 9 Hong Kong visual arts organisations, along with more than 43 artists, and over 160 students to connect, create work, and develop enduring partnerships internationally while rethinking the ways of working remotely to mitigate the environmental impacts of long-haul air travel. This resulted in an online festival, promoting these ways of working through talks and the artwork created during the project to encourage others to consider new ways of connecting with others while minimising their carbon footprint.

In response to winning the award, Rowan said:

Taking part in Green Impact has been a challenging and inspiring process. When we began on our Green Impact journey, I don’t think any of us expected that we would win a national award. It has been a huge honour to be recognised in this way and serves as a reminder of how impactful working sustainably can be.

As a part of our University and local community and as a resource people look to, it is important to us at the Collection that we not only encourage others to work in sustainable ways, but that we lead by example, and show how even the smallest acts contribute to wider change.

We are now more motivated than ever to continue our sustainability journey. Through projects like Hybrid Futures, we’re already thinking about how our sustainability work can be more wide-reaching, working in partnership with other arts organisations and artists, as well as a cohort of community leaders who we hope will be able to spread the learning and tools needed for working more sustainably even further than before.

The second award – Sustainability Hero – recognises a person with extraordinary commitment to sustainability within a Green Impact team, as nominated by their colleagues.

Gwen Riley Jones, the Socially Engaged Photographer-in-Residence with the Salford Art Collection Team in 2021/22, won for going far beyond the actions outlined in the Green Impact toolkit. Her work in collaboration with youth groups explored non-toxic, plant-based methods of photography and printing. The judges described her process to achieve maximum engagement through their work as “impeccable”. Her work has been viewed by over 50,000 people through a display with partner organisation RHS Garden Bridgewater, and it is artistically promoting awareness of plant-based techniques. The judges loved the creative heritage links, too.

In the nomination, Gwen’s colleagues wrote:

Gwen Riley Jones is our team’s Sustainability Hero. Over the last 12 months she has worked with over 100 people at different creative workshops, exploring plant-based methods of photography and printing. This has included making her own spinach anthotypes, a plant-based method of printing using no chemicals. Her work with anthotypes and the Action for Conservation youth group led to an exhibition of the plant-based work at the RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford. Over 50k people visited this exhibition, raising significant awareness of plant-based methods of creating and hopefully inspiring others to explore sustainable ways of working.

At each step of the way she has considered sustainability, ordering reusable film cameras rather than disposable ones, printing all the exhibition materials on compostable boards, and ordering entirely vegan food for her week of activity with Action for Conservation.

Demonstrating incredible commitment to sustainability within her work, Gwen has continued to explore even further how she can reduce the number of unsustainable chemicals she works with, now exploring ways of creating photographic developers using composting vegetables. Gwen’s work over the last 12 months has really inspired us to take initiative as a team and really push the ways we can be more sustainable in our everyday practices.

Gwen Riley Jones and the young people from Action for Conservation on-site at RHS Garden Bridgewater.

In response to winning the award, Gwen said:

Issues around climate change and sustainability can feel overwhelming, but I have found that by collaborating with people and working together it feels more achievable. Each action, each thought, helps us to ask more questions and think about how we can change our practices – step by step – to create a bigger impact.  

When we started this journey, I had no idea of the places it would go, I certainly didn’t expect to be winning any awards for it. It has been my privilege to collaborate with young people on these projects as, in my experience, they immediately have answers and I have learnt so much from working together.  

This work will have no end and will continue to develop alongside the creativity. I have a huge thanks to give to the whole Art Collection Team for their commitment to sustainability and for their encouragement. Also, a huge thank you to the ever-expanding networks of people who are willing to share ideas and try new things to try to live, study and work more sustainably.  

Gwen has since gone on to collaborate with MA Fine Art student Lizzie King and the University’s Sustainability Team, to produce a further series of events and displays on campus entitled ‘Sustaining Photography’ taking place in Summer/Autumn 2023, supported by the Advantage Fund.

The Team give thanks to Marta Strzelecka, University Sustainability Engagement Officer, for her support during the Green Impact project – and encourage any other departments thinking of joining to give it a go!

The national judging panel was made up of Vibhati Bhatia (Founder of South Asians for Sustainability), Charlotte Bonner (CEO of EAUC), Grace Corn (Senior Engagement Officer: Climate Emergency for Westminster City Council) and Rebecca Turner (Careers Pathway Manager at IEMA). 

About Green Impact

Green Impact is a sustainability engagement programme, run internationally by SOS-UK. It’s a simple, fun and flexible way for departments to improve their environmental performance and champion sustainability at the University, whilst receiving recognition for their efforts and impact.

Colleagues form teams across the University and work through an online toolkit of actions together. A team can be any size and cover an office, building, department, or even a whole School or Division. Each action on the toolkit is allocated either 5, 10 or 15 points, and the team decides which actions to complete; the total number of points a team achieves will determine whether they receive a ‘working towards Bronze’ accreditation or a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum award.

Green Impact programme is open to all University of Salford staff members.

Read more on our Green Impact webpage.

If you’re interested in taking part, please get in touch with Marta.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *