Who

WHO WE ARE_medium imagecSPACE director Dr. Loraine Leeson has worked with communities through the visual arts for over thirty years, creating artworks and initiatives in the public domain.

As a young artist returning from a scholarship in Berlin in the mid seventies, she recognised the cultural power of art throughout history and set out to find ways for her art to make a difference by supporting those working for social change.

Teaming up with her work and life partner artist Peter Dunn, she embarked on a series of projects with trades unionists and activist that centred on the politics of health, producing posters and exhibitions for the Bethnal Green Hospital Campaign and East London Health Project. In the early eighties they co-founded the Docklands Community Poster Project, developing a team of six artists and designers to work with the communities of London Docklands. Over the following decade they created photo-murals, exhibitions, posters, events and photographic documentation making the case for a re-development of the area that would meet the needs of local people.

In the early nineties they co-founded The Art of Change, developing participatory projects that addressed issues affecting the communities of East London in that changing urban environment. Much of their work was realised through public art initiatives, while Loraine became increasingly interested in opportunities for collective creativity afforded by emerging Internet technologies. When she and Peter went their separate ways at the end of the decade, she founded cSPACE at University of East London. Working with teams of freelance artists as well as students and academics from the university, she developed projects that would use the visual arts and new technologies to bring the voices, ideas, and first-hand knowledge and expertise held by local people into the public domain.

Loraine was born in London and educated at St Martins College of Art and University of Reading, followed by a DAAD scholarship to the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin. She received her PhD in Art, Communities and Social Change from University of Ulster in 2010. A retrospective exhibition celebrating thirty years of her work with communities toured Berlin, London, Toronto and Dublin 2005-08. The Catch, a gateway public artwork she created for Barking town centre with the input of three hundred children and a mentoring scheme for university and college students, was voted a London 2012 Landmark. Recent projects include The Young Person’s Guide to East London, produced with hundreds of teenagers from the London boroughs hosting the 2012 Olympics, which received the Olympic Inspire Mark and a Media Trust Inspiring Voices award. Current projects include Active Energy with The Geezers, a group of older men in Bow East London, who are investigating renewable energy for their community, and Lambeth Floating Marsh in collaboration with scientist Nithin Rai, supporting biodiversity along the shored up banks of the Thames in central London. In addition to directing cSPACE, Loraine is Senior Research Fellow at University of Westminster and Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University, where she teaches Art Practice and the Community. In 2011 she was Fulbright Scholar in Residence at University of Washington, and in 2012 resident artist at the Mattress Factory museum in Pittsburgh.