A Coventry art gallery has commissioned its first artist as part of a new initiative asking local creatives to respond to key themes within its exhibition programme.

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum will support local creatives with regular micro-commission opportunities of £700 to develop new work which can be shared digitally across the gallery’s social-media channels and website.

Coventry-based spoken-word poet John Bernard is the first recipient of funding. John has created a short, spoken-word poetry film looking at the perception of people of colour and how this affects young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said: “To be the first recipient of this funding is incredible. It's an absolute privilege to partner up with a place that has been instrumental in my growth as a creative; a place where I recorded my first piece of music. Pertaining to the piece, I wanted to examine the lived experiences of people of colour in a way that was inspired by Wallace Stevens' work, whereby something can be viewed in multiple ways."

The Herbert has worked with arts organisation Maokwo - which aims to address the issues that minoritised artists and communities face - to shape the micro-commissioning project.

This commission in particular aimed to attract artists to respond to themes within the recent Thirteen Ways of Looking exhibition. These include: personal memories as strategies of resistance; the lived experiences of people of colour; the disruption of traditional ways of viewing art; questions of where art belongs; and digital spaces as sites for resistance and representation.

Ruark Jon-Stevens, of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, said: “We spent the initial lockdown questioning what we could do to better support local communities and creatives. We had already joined the #StopHateforProfit campaign by freezing spend on social media, and that made us question how we could instead utilise that money to provide paid opportunities for local creatives.

“We are delighted that the first artist to be part of this project is John Bernard, and we are incredibly excited to share his work across our digital channels. Details on the next micro-commission opportunity will be shared via the Herbert’s website in the coming weeks.”

John’s work will premiere on the Herbert’s YouTube channel and Facebook on Friday 18 December at 7pm. A link to the premiere can be found here: https://youtu.be/y47kR4S2YAM