Everyone knows the well-loved English shoe brand Dr. Martens and many of us have worn them (or at least owned a pair) once in our lifetime. For decades, they originally were worn by postmen, police officers, factory workers and bus conductors until the the London punk movement took them on and made them their own. Since then, Dr. Martens (or 'DM's,' as many people refer to them as) have become the stomping shoes for members of any youth subcultures and students up and down the country (not to mention worldwide). A much-loved emblem amongst artists in particular, it only seems fitting that Dr Martens have teamed up with the Institute of Contemporary Arts in support of emerging artists, with an initiative to specifically back film and moving image works.
Seven grants are up for grabs in total, split between one production grant of £30,000 and six smaller grants of £5,000 supplemented with production support and mentoring, with the total sum of grants available amounts to £60,000. If chosen to receive one of the grants mentioned, the artist will also be presented with the opportunity to show their work through Dr. Martens' digital platforms, ICA's new online platform Cinema 3, and at Image Behaviour 2021, the ICA's annual convening dedicated to experiments in artists' moving image. The event will be held over a period of five days in the ICA Theatre later this year and is central to the ICA's decades-long commitment to the development of artist film, previously supporting Derek Jarman, Steve McQueen and Matthew Barney, to more recent works by the likes of James Richards, Metahaven and Martine Syms.
The chief product & marketing officer at Dr. Martens, Darren Campbell, said:
'Dr. Martens has had a long association with independent artists from under-represented communities, and we recognise the need to nurture that burning desire to create and be seen, with our financial support, mentorship and broader visibility. Now, more than ever, the world needs new ideas and fresh perspectives, so we can think of no better way to celebrate six decades than to partner with the ICA, from its renegade HQ on London's Mall, who have pioneered culture since 1946.'
Let's be clear about the fact that creatives are struggling now more than ever. The collaboration between Dr Martens and the ICA to help young emerging artists, comes after many young creatives find themselves struggling after a year that has affected them like no other. The global pandemic has undoubtedly wreaked complete havoc across the cultural sector, forcing organisations and venues to suddenly close and funding applications to either be withdrawn entirely or, at the very least, drastically reduced. If their struggle wasn't made clear at the start of the pandemic, it certainly was after the not-so-welcomed government initiative introduced last October, persuading all creatives to reconsider their career by 'retraining' to benefit the economy. Considering this, and the overall treatment of artists in general during the pandemic, the collaboration counteracts what is currently, a very challenging environment for creatives young and old, up and down the country.
The executive director of the ICA, Stefan Kalmár, said:
'We are experiencing one of the biggest paradigm shifts in society since 1946, the year of the ICA's founding in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. For the ICA today, this means to discuss racial justice, social justice, the ecological crisis, the re-emergence of nationalism and the deep-rooted crisis of western democracies – and to discuss them in relation to each other, challenging the underlying conditions that produce them. The ICA was founded to present urgent new works that speak to our contemporary predicament, and I am grateful to Dr. Martens for joining us in our efforts to commission such work at a time when it is needed most.'
By presenting artists living and working in the UK with this meaningful support at a time when it is needed most, ICA and Dr. Martens are sending a clear message to the rest of the country that may not have been understood before, that artists and their work are utterly essential to the functioning of everyday society.