Arts Fest 2022

16 June - 14 July 2022

Arts Fest 2022 logo

Arts Fest 22 has been organised by Leeds Arts University and partners to celebrate the work of postgraduate students. The event is held from 16 June – 14 July at venues across Leeds city centre.

Organised in collaboration with festival partners including The Merrion Centre, Kirkgate Market, St John’s Centre, Victoria Gate and Victoria Quarter, the event offers students the opportunity to show their work in the public domain and learn about the challenges of exhibiting works outside of conventional environments. OK Comics are kindly displaying a small selection of illustrated and graphic novel student works, throughout the duration of the festival. Arts Fest 22 offers the public a unique cultural experience, as they encounter contemporary creative work in some of the city’s iconic shopping areas.

The event showcases work by students across the University’s eight postgraduate courses, and includes the winners of the Anthony Earnshaw Prize, an annual bursary awarded to postgraduate students supported by artist Patrick Hughes.

Arts Fest 22 launches on Thursday 16 June from 4–5:30pm in the event space at Kirkgate Market, and runs until Thursday 14 July.

Arts Fest Map

1. PlayStackBuildShow

Becky Long-Smith, MA Creative Practice
Location: Victoria Gate (next to the Casino)

To participate. To share. To understand. To know. Inspired by World folk art, toys, craft and ritual, the work should be a part of life, not removed from it. The faces of the blocks physically divide or break apart the imagery, yet at the same time they provide infinite possibilities for connection. The importance of play in our lives is often overlooked, we forget what play can do for us. Re-connect with your inner-child and see what they can teach you, for it is often through play and experimentation that we make new connections and learn the most. PlayStackBuildShow is a title and an instruction. The puzzle blocks are a physical invitation to re-arrange, deconstruct and create, you – the audience are an active participant in both the creation and interpretation of the work.

2. Fear and Necessity

Martha Madden, MA Fine Art
Location: Kirkgate Market (inside The Sewing Machine Co. shop in the 1904 Hall)

Currently studying MA Fine Art, I am a textile artist with a passion for hand-stitch, with my practice concentrating on illness and quality of life. Undeniably, these are topics that feel challenging to discuss with others. Yet the prospect of having these discussions can often be harder than the discussion itself. My soft sculptural spider encompasses fear and courage, highlighting how facing these subjects can transform perspectives. The use of fabric and stitch invites comforting associations with the domestic, softening the appearance of the spider and making it more approachable.

3. Peat, Posts and Paths: 8000 years on a Scottish isle

Max Rowe, MA Photography
Curated by Aditi Sangle, MA Curation Practices
Location: Victoria Quarter (outside The Ivy)

These evocative images from the Hebridean island of Harris and Lewis explore themes of heritage, sustainability and life. Populated for at least 8000 years, the island is covered by a blanket of peat surrounded by a narrow annulus of well-drained sandy coastal soil (Machir). The peat, which thickens a few millimetres each year – removing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, provides the few islanders with a culturally inherited and sustainable fuel. Neolithic inhabitants erected standing stones and elaborate stone circles. Later residents were forced to scratch out a subsistence existence around the coastline. Islanders’ final resting places lookout to sea sandwiched between the peat that would prevent decomposition, the fertile Machir needed for crops and the ever-eroding cliffs and beaches. @peatpostsandpaths

4. Masquerade

Nicola Rawnsley Course: MA Creative Practice
Location: St. Johns Centre (next to HMV)

Masquerade is a sculpture made from an oxidised wood saw blade. The handle is upholstered in a button tufted plush red velvet. The sculpture is housed inside a gilt framed box which the saw has partially cutting through to fit within. The saw blade is a representation of my working class identity and the handle is the pressure to hide my true self through the creation of a facade to conform to societal expectations. I would like the viewer to contemplate the systems they construct to conceal their insecurities and to question whether the hidden truth is in fact their vital strength to acknowledge and celebrate.

5. The Impossible Balance

Susan Abbott and Nicola Rawnsley, MA Creative Practice
Location: St. Johns Centre (next to HMV)

The Impossible Balance is a 3D mobile installation made from recycled materials, shaped into origami formed objects. It features a contrast of natural elements and man-made energy users. The mobile is alluding to the concept of the balance needed for sustainable living. The weight of the items on the mobile represents their carbon footprint. These will be secured with wire to a frame to create an optical illusion of the balance we need to survive. We intend the public to visually see the sustainable imbalance in our current carbon heavy usage and hope to encourage change.

6. Pods In the Markets

Students: Ben Wilkinson, Chris King, Pratik Nathani & Emma Jones, MA Illustration
Location: Kirkgate Market (various stalls throughout)

The Pods are out to play! Born from seeds, came down from trees, settled in towns, now busy as bees! Pod men exist halfway between imagination and reality. During the festival, the Podmen will be let loose into Kirkgate Market. Come along! Follow the Podman trail and see what’s to discover! The Podmen act as a central theme, around which different illustrators are asked to share their ideas and approaches to creating work. A collaborative experiment between a group of MA illustration students, bringing ideas off of the page and into the real-world space; mixing different styles and bringing some fun into the world of arts-based research in Leeds.

7. In Motion

Lennox Bruwer (MA Animation), Jesse McMahon (MA Fine Art), Maria Kimberly Furtado (MA Graphic Design), Estelle Pearce (MA Digital Fashion), Erin Bennett (MA Digital Fashion), Praneetha Bandanadham (MA Animation), Amily Galhand (MA Fine Art), Ben Wilkinson (MA Illustration)
Location: Owl Unit, Kirkgate Market (opposite Hayes Seafood)

An interdisciplinary collaboration centred around moving-image showcasing the work of MA students from Animation, Fine Art, Digital Fashion, Graphic Design and Illustration. Capitalising on the busy location of Kirkgate Markets, In Motion (2022) distracts from the daily hustle and bustle with a shifting collection of videos rear-projected onto the windows of a disused unit. We bring our own perspectives and contexts to the collaboration, playing with themes of identity, interaction, technical production, and experimentation itself. We’re interested in how our works interact with each other, with the site of Leeds City Markets, and with the broader field of art and design that we are situated within.

8. Blame Austerity, Not Migrants

Katy Jennings, MA Fine Art
Location: Kirkgate Market (Market Kitchen by the VAL Unit)

Leeds has a long history of welcoming migrants. Home to over 169 different nationalities and with over 104 languages spoken, these communities have played an important role in the formation of Leeds as the multicultural city we know today. Since the Conservatives have been in power, many communities throughout the UK live in extreme austerity, the blame is often put onto the shoulders of hard-working migrants or refugees to distract individuals from the cuts imposed by our government. Blame Austerity, Not Migrants is a four-layered screen-printed poster with an electric colour palette, highlighting that diversity has an exceedingly positive impact on our society. Being a hub of multicultural, thriving food cafes and stalls that are often extremely popular and busy, Leeds City Market is a perfect example of this."

9. Queen of the Living Room

Rae George, MA Fine Art
Location: Merrion Centre (digital screens across the Merrion Centre)

Through the medium of paint, I share my experiences as a woman artist in my mid 30’s. I tackle issues like love and relationships, changing career choices, and the pressures of being a woman in today’s society. I do this inspired by art history, expressive colours, and fleshy forms. There are a number of women artists that inspire me including Joan Mitchell, Suzanne Valadon and Jenny Saville. My work is a mix of digital and physical painting. I love to use my iPad to create sketches and plan the work, as well as physically painting in oils. This allows me to work quickly and instinctively to express what comes from within. This work is part of a series called ‘Queen of the Living Room’ which began during the pandemic lockdowns. The idea came from feeling bored around the house and thinking back to childhood when I could pretend and play.

10. Confessional Object

Natassia Lee, MA Creative Practice
Location: Kirkgate Market (opposite the Community and Library Hub on Row 2)

This confessional object was designed to receive the confessions of any one that interacts with it. This could be anything; a secret, fear, love note, lies, a letter, a manifestation, lyrics, a memory. The confessional, blessed with the cleansing energy of a reiki master teacher offers you an opportunity to post something you might be holding in and let it go anonymously, in exchange for the reiki energy the object has been charged with. Within this exchange(secrets for good vibes) it is the hope of the artist that the object will fill up with human sentiments and offer anyone that interacts with it a moment of release.

Kirkgate Market logo OK Comics logo Merrion Centre logo St Johns logo Victoria Leeds logo


  • 16 June - 14 July 2022
  • Leeds (multiple locations)