Few people outside of education are likely to be familiar with Artemis or what it does. Small wonder.
The service is one provided exclusively to schools across Leeds, allowing teachers and pupils to access a huge bank of some 10,000 artefacts and original works of art accumulated locally over the years.
Now run by Education Leeds, it used to be known by the less succinct (but more literal) title of the Leeds Schools Museum and Art Loan Service.
Now everyone can get a sense of what’s behind the doors of their headquarters in Holbeck.
Hunter Gatherer, opened last week at gallery ProjectSpaceLeeds (PSL) and features the creative interpretations of nine artists asked to react to objects featured in the vast Artemis collection.
“The brief they had was quite open-ended,” says Zoe Sawyer, programme manager at PSL. “We invited them to produce work in response rather than to do something literal.
“They could use the objects within the work or make work inspired by what they found. We wanted them to use the artefacts as a stimulus, if they wanted, rather than view them almost as raw material.
“It was just more interesting that way. There’s more tangents to be explored and we wanted to give the artists that freedom. As a result the work that’s been produced is very different.”
From the humorous to the downright bizarre, the exhibition includes various installations which are either inspired by or include some of the artefacts.
They range from simple arrangements of objects to projections and sculptures which used the collection as a starting point for the final pieces.
They certainly had a variety to choose from, which shows in the resulting displays. The Artemis HQ includes everything relating to world cultures, fine and applied art, science natural history, textiles and costume and social history.
The artists involved are Amelia Crouch, Dinu Li, Rhiannon Silver, Lisa Stansbie, Nathan Walker and a pair of duos: Lubaina Himid with Susan Walsh and Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir with Mark Wilson.
“It was a relatively fast turnaround for the artists,” says Zoe. “They only had a month or so to work in the space and the invitation only went out about two or three months ago.
“All of the artists went down there, albeit for varying lengths of time. Amelia and Rhiannon, for example, they both live in Leeds, and they were there twice a week for quite a few weeks .
“Rhiannon is using over 100 images in her projects and Amelia made a selection of 30 objects and I think is using 16. Artists who came from further afield spent whole days down there.
“Nathan made his work on site and Lisa documented all the shelves there, that took her a day or two filming.
“Lisa has actually filmed the full extent of the collection, though not the picture collection, but it gives a true idea of how many objects are down there, some are still in the boxes they’re stored in. I think if you were to study each of the objects down there you’d probably be there for six months.”
Much of the exhibition is likely to have special meaning as many of the objects relate to the city’s recent or not-so-recent past.
Zoe says: “Quite a lot of the objects are either domestic or popular so are naturally going to evoke some kind of nostalgia, they have history embedded in them because they are commonplace.
“But some were specifically used for education, so people may have a vague knowledge of them through school. Some are fascinating specimens.
“It’s great that people can relate to them even if they’ve seen them in a different context, I think reconfiguring something might make people view them differently.
“Hopefully we can actually get visitors to look at things – because frequently we see things but we don’t actually look at them.”
And what about that title, Hunter Gatherer, what’s the meaning?
“Well, we’re parallelling the artist’s practice of collecting objects to make something,” says Zoe. “There is a certain urgency to do that too.
“As animals you need to collect things in order to eat and stay warm and to survive but artists also need things in order to make work to be stimulated.
“And there was definitely a sense that they were hunting through the Artemis collection.”
As part of the Hunter Gatherer exhibition there will be a series of related events taking place at PSL.
They include the Creative Carousel on May 28 from noon to 5pm. Entry is free and there will be a series of workshops.
PSL is also partnering with the Breeze International Youth Festival to create a mentoring project linking artists and young people. This will result in a curated project for the adjacent Viewing Room at PSL. For more details on all of the above visit the PSL website.
Until Aug 6, ProjectSpaceLeeds, 2 Riverside Way, Whitehall Waterfront, Leeds, free entry, open Wed to Sat, noon to 5pm. Tel: 0113 8160122. www.projectspaceleeds.org.uk