A group of northern artists and designers is heading out to the Ukraine to visit Chernobyl and Pripyat as part of a research project to raise awareness of the issues around nuclear energy.

Led by project manager and lead artist Claire Baker, the group of 14 artists – known as the 26:86 Collective – will be visiting the site of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster on the year of its 30th anniversary and will document the visit with film, photos and interviews to inspire a multi-disciplined body of work which will form a touring exhibition later this year.

The Collective, named after the day and year of the disaster, is made up of established and emerging artists and designers across the fields of illustrative and fine art, textiles, graphic design and documentary photography. They will take inspiration and first hand factual research and imagery to create artistic works for exhibit from this autumn. The group has already secured commitment from some galleries to showcase their works – ’30 Years On – Chernobyl Exposed’ including Hartlepool Art Gallery, an appropriate location for their finale.

Claire, from Norton, is an embroidery artist and the textile programme leader at Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD), and is behind the initiative. Having already experienced Chernobyl in 2015 as part of her MA studies, Claire was inspired to revisit the town and her trip soon garnered interest from other artists, leading to them setting up their own group with a common creative goal and the commitment to fund the trip to the Ukraine themselves.

She said: “This is a very exciting opportunity for the Collective and despite the obvious challenges of documenting a historical site with such a tragic past, we are looking forward to exploring our creativity to educate and inform communities of the current issues surrounding nuclear energy.

“The Collective is a dynamic and passionate team of established creatives and new artists with the aim to generate a debate on these issues and how they affect communities today, including radioactive waste disposal, and explore what lessons have been learned.

“The legacy of Chernobyl will remain for years to come and as we acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the accident which shook the world, we would like people to make up their own minds whilst viewing the creative and artistic works. The 26:86 collective and our series of exhibitions will be for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone.”

Claire’s two daughters will also be joining her on the trip – graphic artist Laura and photographer Lucy, as well as graphic designer and stencil artist, Niall Kitching. In addition, staff and alumni from CCAD taking part in the research expedition include Alyson Agar, a photographer, fine artist and lecturer in contextual studies from Middlesbrough, Melanie Shee, former business development manager at the college, now north east skills academy manager for Creative & Cultural Skills from Sunderland, designer Gavin Vaughan from Hartlepool and graphic designer Nicola Golightly from Billingham.

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