Newcastle University’s vision for the next decade is one of a world-class research-intensive university which also plays a major role in the social, cultural and economic landscape of the city, the northern region, and the nation: a civic institution with a strong international profile.
As part of the University’s commitment to channelling its research towards addressing the global issues facing society, the theme of ageing and health was launched in 2010 with a national campaign aimed at challenging negative perceptions of ageing. This ‘Changing Age’ campaign is helping to bring about a fundamental change in the way society views our ageing population. The Coming of Age: The Art and Science of Ageing exhibition has been designed to portray some of these vital issues through the medium of the visual arts.
As Professor Tom Kirkwood, Associate Dean of the University’s Institute for Ageing and Health and one of the world’s leading experts on the ageing process, explains in the exhibition catalogue, increasing life expectancy in the UK is one of the greatest changes to affect our society in the last 200 years.
Changing Age aims to engage with the public to demonstrate the achievements in increased life expectancy and the challenges, opportunities and responsibilities that this brings. While the programme has been led by the Faculty of Medical Sciences, the University believes that a multidisciplinary approach, blending science and arts research, can help the public to understand many key societal issues. The Coming of Age exhibition thus represents part of the contribution from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences to this campaign.
Alongside an exploration of the way in which artists throughout the ages have responded to the passage of time and the process of ageing, described here by Lucy Jenkins, the exhibition’s curator, three artists have been working over the last few months in conjunction with the Institute for Ageing and Health. Andrew Carnie, Annie Cattrell and Jennie Pedley have been observing the work of several University scientists and have responded to this experience by producing a number of newly commissioned artworks. We are especially grateful to the Wellcome Trust, Arts Council, England, The Rayne Foundation and the Catherine Cookson Foundation for their generous support of both the exhibition and the substantial accompanying programme of workshops, readings, lectures and other activities. We hope that Coming of Age will contribute to the public’s understanding of the important concepts around ageing and encourage greater recognition of the positive contribution that older people make to society as a whole.
Professor Eric Cross, Dean of Cultural Affairs, Newcastle University