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East Leeds Observatory Artist Brief

Deadline: Friday 27th May, 5pm
Briefing meetings with shortlisted artists: from 6th June

The East Leeds Project, in partnership with LEEDS 2023, is seeking expressions of interest from artists and/or creative teams to help us imagine and realise a mobile observatory to tour East Leeds and beyond in 2023.

The project has been inspired by the upcoming 300th birthday of John Smeaton in 2023-24. Smeaton was a self-taught engineer, inventor and collaborator. He is recognised as the father of civil engineering in the UK but his legacy is global and has enduring relevance. He built his own observatory at Austhorpe in East Leeds, where he was born in 1724 and died in 1792.

The East Leeds Observatory takes Smeaton’s incredible legacy as a point of departure for seeking intersections between his twin passions of astronomy and engineering, and visual culture. We want to explore the possibilities for a mobile structure which can operate simultaneously as a functional observatory, a creative lab for art and science, and a visually dynamic work of kinetic/sculptural design. Our ambition is that the Observatory will be at once a work of public art, mobile architecture and a place to come together: a space for collective conversations, observations and imaginings about everything under the sun, moon and stars as seen from East Leeds.

We are inviting ambitious proposals for this unique project and urge you to dream big! Please find more details in the brief below.

Key dates

Monday 9 May: Artist’s brief goes live through an open call
Friday 27 May, 5pm: Deadline for expressions of interest (three weeks)
Friday 3 June: Offers made to shortlisted artists
From Monday 6 June: Briefing meetings with shortlisted artists
6 – 24 June: Artists/teams develop proposals, including visuals (three weeks)
Friday 30 June: Preferred artist/team notified
Thursday 7 July: Preferred proposal put forward for greenlighting

How to apply

Although this commission is open to all, we recommend that the lead applicant has at least five years’ professional experience of working on relevant projects in the public realm or with public access. Applicants must be able to either demonstrate the technical and fabrication skills required to undertake the project or indicate that this is a specialism you would need to bring into the conversation or partner with.

Please supply the following by the deadline of 5pm on Friday 27 May:

  • Name and contact details for the lead applicant – someone we can get in touch with about your proposal
  • Details of your team (if applying with others) and/or anyone you would collaborate with or reach out to – including fabricators if necessary and not already part of your team
  • A statement outlining your interest in this commission, what you can bring to it and any initial ideas about your approach
  • Information detailing relevant previous experience and projects, including links to online content

Applications should be made online via Curatorspace at (search ‘East Leeds Observatory’).