A Totem for Hull was the second project artist Jason Wilsher-Mills delivered in Hull with Artlink. Having undertaken the Square Peg disabled artist residency during Hull’s year as UK City of Culture to much acclaim and interest, Jason wanted to return to the city to reconnect with some of the people he had collaborated with and undertake a project which would result in a substantial permanent artwork. One which would reflect the often unheard perspective within the culture of disabled people.
Such an undertaking Jason and Artlink knew would require a wider network of partners, and we immediately thought of the University. With its Culture Campus programme and having already undertaken ambitious sculptural projects on site, we felt this would be an ideal collaboration. Artlink and Jason worked together with the University to secure additional funding from Arts Council England and Hull City Council and started the project formally in January 2019. Artlink focused on supporting Jason during his significant engagement with disabled groups in the city, which saw him working with around 200 people in total to contribute to final his design for the sculpture. We also supported him to realise the final artwork. At the same time, the University worked closely with Jason on placing and securing the artwork on campus, engaging staff and students in the project and launching the final piece at a large scale event. All partners worked closely on communications relating to the project, which attracted a lot of interest, being featured on BBC Look North and being part of Yorkshire Sculpture International 2019. A close, direct and open collaborative working relationship between the University and Artlink based around supporting the artist, with each party leading on their specialisms and working together for greater impact, was key to the success of the project.