Even a quick scan of the range, variety and depth of the projects undertaken by the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW) since the mid-1990s gives an idea of the importance of its pioneering work for art and the environment. It was ahead of its time: CCANW’s support and influence for artists pre-dates the widespread recognition of the urgency of climate change, public awareness of which had been mounting since COP21 in 2015. Not a little thanks to the influence of CCANW, there has been an increasing interest and sense of urgency around nature and the rural in the contemporary art world.

Not only has CCANW consistently been a champion for nature, the environment and rural, but it has never been parochial, always looking nationally and internationally for alliances, partnerships and connections. For evidence of this, one needs to look no further than the Centre’s ambitious Soil Culture programme with Falmouth University and others, with art.earth and Korean partners over the Science Walden Project and with the Global Network of Water Museums, to recognise that.

For many years, CCANW was supported by Arts Council England (ACE). It is ironic that as CCANW’s reputation and influence spread, with a growing number of artists and galleries looking to CCANW for inspiration, the support of public funding bodies reduced and eventually ceased altogether. ACE’s decision not to fund CCANW’s work since 2016, resulting in its closure in 2020, makes depressing reading considering its pioneering role as a research, commissioning and exhibiting arts organisation in this increasingly relevant field. Nonetheless, CCANW’s influence continues thanks to this Online Archive, a resource available to practitioners that details CCANW’s extensive track record of exemplary projects.

View of the exhibition at GroundWork ‘on a stony path: herman de vries’ 11 March–1 July 2017. Photo Veronica Sekules.

In 2016, I founded GroundWork Gallery as Britain’s only gallery dedicated to art and environment, and it remains as such seven years later. CCANW was still running innovative projects then, and its story was very much in my mind as a fellow arts organisation interested in environmental matters. It was a beacon for me for its independent spirit, its consistent and carefully targeted subject focus and its resilience. GroundWork Gallery has benefitted greatly from Clive’s encouragement and, largely thanks to him and his network of influence, gained the Nick Reeves Arts and the Environment Award in 2017, given by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) in association with CCANW. Like CCANW, GroundWork Gallery shall remain undimmed by public grant refusals, and will instead, maximise the benefits of being as fiercely independent and I hope, as influential, a platform for art and environment as CCANW.

Dr Veronica Sekules
Director, GroundWork Gallery
July 2023

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