Jill McKnight (b. 1990, Sunderland, UK) is a multidisciplinary artist working across sculpture, drawing, film, sound and writing. Her practice focuses on exploring lesser heard stories, particularly from women and working-class people. Recent work has looked at the representation of community identities and collective voices, together with more personal histories, capturing the multiplicity and commonality that exists within them. In 2021-22, McKnight was artist-in-residence for Collections in Dialogue, a co-commission between Leeds Art Gallery and the British Library, culminating in the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition Desire Lines at Leeds Art Gallery. McKnight has previously exhibited at institutions across the UK, including The Art House, Wakefield; Saatchi Gallery; South London Gallery; Wysing Arts Centre and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. McKnight was awarded a Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award in 2020.

Past and Future Pact will connect with residents of Sunderland, UK, to explore the identities of individuals in relation to the city where they live, more than 30 years since heavy industry closures. I will work with community participants and members of my own family to record perspectives of differently marginalised gendered experiences of care and domestic work in the family home and paid employment. In Stage 1 of the residency, I will arrange and record interviews, alongside making separate creative responses of writing, drawing and film. In Stage 2, I will develop, make and share a new body of work, including a soundscape, film, sculpture and digital sketchbook. Recently announced government and cultural investments means that the city is now potentially on the precipice of transformation, with the chance to regenerate like other post-industrial cities in the global north. It therefore feels like a vital moment to take stock of the effects of its deindustrialization – to capture where it is now and consider the possibilities of what it could become.

Jennifer Vanderpool is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, and writer based in Los Angeles, California, United States. A native of the Mahoning Valley in Northeast Ohio, she draws on her immigrant Ukrainian family’s stories about working in sweatshops and factories as a lens to question the social construction of place based on the influences of history, race, class, gender, and labor. She explores workers’ lives and cities through community-specific and
site-responsive projects.

City Beautiful is a publicly accessible community-specific and site-responsive social practice art project. It consists of three interconnected mediums. The first is an app creating an augmented reality digital mapping of Youngstown. Users can stop on their remote or in-person exploration, select a site to see the once mighty mills or splendor of the grand main streets and neighborhoods, and then witness the deterioration of the site, too often into an abandoned lot with encroaching woodlands. They may engage my project’s second component, choosing commentary by locals, activists, urban planners, scholars, etc., about the citizenry’s history, current predicament, and future possibilities. The third component is a new generation of interactive VR artwork that users can access on their personal devices portraying an imaginary post-prosperity city crafted from select imagery of industrial sites, downtowns, and neighborhoods. I chose these locales by following the migration of my Ukrainian grandparents, who were settled in the former mining town of Punxsutawney and followed short-term work to now disinvested cities before moving to Youngstown in 1967. Viewers can explore this thriving imaginary realism city and experience its time-lapsed deterioration to its current depopulated urban core and pastoral wards. Participants can select commentary illustrated by digital line drawings, visualizing a virtual reality for a potentially real future.