Meet the curators shaping Hull’s visual arts scene – John Heffernan

Hull’s art galleries have never been more popular. Already renowned in their fields, they thrived under the UK City of Culture spotlight, reporting increased footfall and unprecedented visitor numbers. One – Humber Street Gallery – opened as a pop-up for 2017 and is now a permanent fixture. But how are the people charged with shaping Hull’s visual arts scene now building on these successes? In this series we meet the curators of four of the city’s biggest art galleries to tell us more.

Humber Street Gallery opened in 2017, initially as a pop-up, contemporary art space for Hull UK City of Culture. Past exhibitions have included The House Of Kings And Queens by Lee Price, Hull, Portrait Of A City by Martin Parr and Olivia Arthur, The Big Picture featuring the City of Culture volunteers by Leo Francis and Chris Fenton, and Richie Culver’s No One Knows Me Like Dawn From The Jobcentre.

Permanent fixtures include the infamous local legend that is Dead Bod graffiti and punk icon Jamie Reid’s paste-up Ragged Kingdom.

The gallery itself is now a permanent fixture on Humber Street, with senior curator John Heffernan taking the reins in March 2018. John was previously head of exhibitions at the Jupiter Artland Foundation, in Edinburgh.

John says: “Humber Street Gallery is at a pivotal time as it transitions from pop-up to a permanent space for contemporary art in the city of Hull. Our programme will bring together the very best of national, international and local contemporary visual arts for audiences to enjoy, and I hope it will encourage them to have a sense of further aspiration and inclusion for this great city.

“Our programme is all about participation. Our current exhibition is called It Takes A Village – a group show of international artists working on the themes of identity, equality and power. It features works by British, American and Australian artists including Romily Alice, Derek Alexis Coard, Tessa Lynch, Lakwena Maciver, Hardeep Pandhal and Paul Yore. We are working with students from Hull School of Art and Design, as well as a group of artist-mothers, who would otherwise struggle to find time to make art – we’re providing childcare to allow them the time to make work.

“We are hosting the Lumen Art Prize Exhibition from late July to early October, which will interest anyone curious about art, technology and the digital age. Then we will see a solo show by Jamie Reid, the UK’s foremost artist/anarchist!

“Humber Street Gallery is one part of the visual arts scene in Hull, and it will only be a success if we are able to collaborate with others around the city and beyond. I hope it will become a hub for the visual arts, as we plan to host a series of talks and events aimed at bringing people together, including a network of local and national practitioners.”


Kirsten Simister, curator, Ferens Art Gallery, Queen Victoria Square, Hull.

John Bernasconi, director, University of Hull Art Collection.

Kenn Taylor, creative director, Artlink Hull, Princes Avenue.