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Diversity in College art to grow

The Queen

Imperial is to roll out new projects aimed at addressing a lack of diversity in the art displayed on College campuses.

The initiatives are the first to be proposed by Imperial’s Artworks Group, which was commissioned last year by the President and Provost to consider how Imperial can better reflect its staff, students and alumni through its art.

The group, chaired by Professor Sian Harding – Professor of Cardiac Pharmacology in the National Heart and Lung Institute, is made up of staff, students and external advisors. Task groups are being assembled to implement the recommendations, with oversight from an overall Artworks steering group which will continue to scope new opportunities and locations for artworks, review existing art, and consult regularly with the College community.

The Artwork Group sits alongside the History Group, which is working to examine the history of the College and its legacy, with a focus on colonialism and Empire.

Professor Sian Harding said: “These initiatives represent an important first step in our work to ensure that the art we display around our campuses reflects our community and our modern values.

“It is important that we do not consider this an isolated project, but an ongoing effort to do better for our whole community. Our important work continues, and we look forward to collaborating with the History Group as they uncover more about our past.”

Staff who would like to get involved in the group’s work or contribute their views can do so by emailing [email protected].

New portraiture

Imperial is working with the Royal College of Art to launch The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Portrait Prize, which will provide awards of £2,000 to selected Royal College of Art students and staff in the School of Arts and Humanities to cover the costs of creating and displaying a portrait of a member of Imperial College London’s student, staff or alumni community.

The prize will have a particular focus on works that depict members of Imperial’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community by artists that identify as BAME.

Between four and five selected works will be displayed in an exhibition at Imperial College’s Blyth Gallery, before being moved to a permanent location on campus.

Staff who have suggestions for Imperial figures that these portraits could depict, or who wish to get involved, should email: [email protected]

Rethinking current displays

The group will lead a review of the artworks displayed in 170 Queen’s Gate and the Commonwealth Building Boardroom – two prominent places where art is displayed on campus.

The group propose that these spaces should incorporate artworks that represent Imperial’s most notable scientific, engineering and medical achievements, with a focus on modern contributions (those from the late 20th century onwards) and an emphasis on underrepresented groups, as well as those with the greatest historical interest.

Professor Sian Harding said: “These high-profile locations on campus provide a wonderful opportunity to showcase Imperial’s phenomenal scientific contributions to the world. There are achievements in our past which may have gone unrecognized or have been undercelebrated – especially those by women and people from the BAME community. We will pay particular attention to this as we consider the art we display in these spaces. This will add to, not take away from, the range of art on campus.”

‘College Culture Channel’

The group proposes that a College Culture Channel is established to bring together a curated selection of images and videos for display on digital screens around the College, including photographs of Imperial’s artworks with explanatory text, images highlighting College life, human interest stories from the College community, and performing art clips.

The group will explore the creation of this resource as well as a committee to oversee the collection of this content and its placement, with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion. The group will welcome submissions and ideas from the College community as they shape this idea.


Several photography exhibitions are planned by the group. This includes displays of existing photography series such as Shifting the Lens, Women at Imperial, Black Physicists at Imperial and Imperial Heroes, as well as newly curated exhibitions.

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