Animate Projects Likely to Close Without Arts Council England Funding

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England’s Animate Projects program has announced it likely will shut down at the end of March after the Arts Council England not to fund the program for 2011.

With a history that goes back to 1990, when Animate was founded by Dick Arnall, the program has commissioned more than 140 films, including 11 British Animation Awards winners and multiple BAFTA honors. The project’s broadcast partner, Channel 4, has aired AnimateTV and featured the work of key British animators such as Phil Mulloy, the Quay Brothers, ‘time-slice’ inventor Tim Macmillan, Sarah Cox,  Jonathan Hodgson, Run Wrake, Osbert Parker, Chris Shepherd and David Anderson.

The program was relaunched as Animate Projects in 2007 following Arnall’s death and has been run by Jacqui Davies and Gary Thomas.

“The Arts Council said it would not be ‘fair’ to fund us through Grants for the Arts, but before we applied they told us that this was our only option, and it’s how they’ve funded us since 2007,” says Thomas. “What makes us most angry is the attitude towards the artform, the artists and animators we work with, and our audiences.”

The Arts Council of England is a government-funded body charged with promoting performing, visual and literary arts. The council uses lottery funds to fund organizations and projects across the country.

Animate Projects had planned an ambitious program for 2011, including a wide range of collaborative projects with a digital focus, including a large-scale practice based research project with a university, artist residencies in a research laboratory, artist collaborations with community groups, and a partnership to deliver moving image to healthcare sites nationwide.

Recent commissions include A Letter to Uncle Boonmee by Cannes Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Slow Action by Ben Rivers, and Unfolding the Aryan Papers, made by Jane and Louise Wilson in response to The Stanley Kubrick Archives.

Animate’s website, animateprojects.org, is a unique online exhibition space, archive and resource, with over 140 films along with interviews, essays and background production materials, and receives 25,000 visitors a month.

The move prompted criticism from Animate Project’s supporters:

Artist David Shrigley says: “Animate succeeded by Animate Projects has consistently facilitated cutting edge animation in the UK. This work has been widely celebrated throughout the world and has made the UK a focal point for animated filmmaking. The loss of this vital organisation will mean that animation in the UK will suffer hugely as a result.”

Ruth Lingford, Professor of the Practice of Animation, Harvard University, says: ‘Getting my first Animate grant was the key moment that opened up my career. It enabled me to develop my voice as an artist, and for my work to be seen in the context of experimental filmmaking. The second grant allowed me space to change and deepen my work. Without Animate, I would most certainly not now be in my current position at Harvard. And without Animate, British animation, and British art, would be the poorer.’

Chris O’Reilly, founder of Nexus Productions, says: ‘Animate has been a consistent reference point for innovation in animation and represents the high tide mark for the artist exploration of the medium. As we reach a moment when digital technology is changing animation, in terms of mode of production and increased interactivity with audiences, animation’s future as a medium for artists could not be more exciting. Animate is uniquely placed to lead and channel that new breed of creativity.’