Culture of the Countryside

Culture of the Countryside was a Heritage Lottery funded three-year programme aiming to encourage a better understanding of the cultures and heritage of the East Anglian countryside through direct engagement with the Sainsbury Centre collections of art from around the world.

Between 2008-2011, over 100 Schools and 40 communities interested in the rural context were visited by teams of creative educators, artists and volunteers from the University, bringing a van packed with objects from the Centre’s handling collections, which people could hold, study and respond to in various ways. Objects were used as a device for discussion, to ask questions, to encourage curiosity, to challenge and consider values across cultures and between peoples.

By learning from art from another part of the world, the idea was that we would develop an awareness of different stories, rituals and beliefs to enrich our native experience. We used deductions and comparisons from elsewhere to gain new insights together which were relevant to the countryside cultures of East Anglia.

Following the initial observations and reflections, came a phase of active interpretation. Through making, writing, acting out artistic and practical responses, the ideas of all participants could be expressed creatively and in a contemporary way. Our projects reflected on different aspects of the environment and related to experiences which differ from, or inform our local ways of life.