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School of Art hosts Commonwealth Festival event exploring Blk Art Group


The University of Wolverhampton School of Art is all ready, set, go to host an event focused on the pioneering Blk Art Group and its legacy and influence as part of Birmingham 2022 Fesitival Art Commission. 

This project brings together Midlands-based artist Beverley Bennet and the Blk Art Group Research Project to present "Nations Finest, Putting Down Roots and Birthing”. 

A series of events have been put together in the West Midlands as part of the commission, bringing local groups together to discuss themes around Commonwealth, colonialism and race, intersecting with the work and archive of the Blk Art Group. In Wolverhampton Bennet worked with local group, The African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) which aims to provide a culturally safe service that will meet the needs of the African and Caribbean community and their families affected by mental ill health. 

The Blk Art Group was formed in Wolverhampton in 1979. Originally known as the Pan-Afrikan Connection, the group was inspired by America’s Black Arts Movement (BAM) part of the larger Black Power Movement. 

Wolverhampton was a heavily industrial area populated by employees and factory workers from the Caribbean. This influx of immigrants brought into the country to work led to a large Afro-Caribbean community settling in Britain as their new home. The diaspora raised its second-generation who grew into the men and women that would later fuel the Blk Art Group. 

The Blk Art Group’s first national convention was held at the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Art in 1982. The School of Art is hosting a free screening of Bennett’s film, one of the outcomes of the Birmingham 2022 Festival Art Commission. As part of the event former members of the Blk Art group Marlene Smith, Claudette Johnson and Keith Piper will return to the School for a discussion. The event will take place in Wolverhampton on Saturday 30 July 2022 between 7.30 pm and 9.00 pm. 

Tickets for the event in Wolverhampton can be booked here. 

The research project has been supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

Rooting the work in her home region and hosting city, Bennett pays homage to the pioneering Blk Art Group and its legacy and influence on the art scene and her practice more personally. Bennett's multifaceted work will comprise of local gatherings, photographic public billboards and a short film displayed on digital live sites across Wolverhampton, Coventry and Birmingham.  

Beverley said: “Feeding into the film and photographic billboards will be a series of intergenerational community gatherings, which is a core element of my broader practice. These gatherings aim to bring local groups together to discuss themes around Commonwealth, colonialism and race, intersecting with the work and archive of the Blk Art Group.  

“These groups, the discourse and ideas generated are a catalyst to support and inform the narrative for the stills and film. This three-strand commission will culminate in a festival co-curated by the gatherings' participants and the artist, offering an opportunity to watch the film together and celebrate.”  

Maggie Ayliffe, Head of the School of Art, said: “Marlene Smith, one of the founding members of the Blk Art Group, will introduce the event at Wolverhampton and will later join other Blk Art Group members Keith Piper and Claudette Johnson in conversation in the School of Art lecture theatre.  

“The first Blk Art Group conference took place at the lecture theatre in the School of Art so it's really poignant that the group are coming back here and we are really looking forward to welcoming them.” 

A steel pan band, food and refreshments will be available at the event. 

For anyone who already has the results of their qualifications, applications can be made through Clearing from Tuesday 5 July 2022. The University’s Clearing webpage provides further information on all the courses available in Clearing. Applications can be made either by calling the Clearing Team on 01902 51 8585 or through the University’s social media channels on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.   

For anyone who is awaiting the results of their qualifications, they can register their interest and book a phone call with a Clearing Adviser on results day, Thursday, 18 August 2022.  

For more information our next Open Day is on Saturday 20 August 2022. 



For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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