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Published: 2021-01-18

Art curator returns to Umeå as director of UmArts

NEWS Professor Ele Carpenter has been appointed director of the Umeå Centre for Architecture, Design and the Arts, shortened UmArts at Umeå University. She will be given the overall responsibility to develop, lead and coordinate the university’s art activities. Ele Carpenter will be based at the Umeå School of Architecture where she has an appointment as professor.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

“I’m delighted to become the director of UmArts. It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop arts research across the university. As a curator of contemporary art, I develop new contexts for creative interdisciplinary research with universities, public museums and galleries, so I’m looking forward to the new possibilities in Umeå,” says Professor Ele Carpenter at the Umeå School of Architecture at Umeå University.

UmArts consists of the Bildmuseet contemporary arts museum, the Umeå Institute of Design, the Umeå School of Architecture, the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, and the Department of Creative Studies.

The new centre aims to take a holistic approach to the art activities at Umeå University to maintain and advance its high quality, as well as establish a distinctive art profile and strengthen its visibility and impact both nationally and internationally.

“I’m pleased that we have now recruited a director of UmArts and Ele Carpenter is a highly competent person well suited to lead this part of the organisation. The recruitment team has done an excellent job in landing all the details. I’m looking forward to following the progress of UmArts and the activities in the Arts under Ele Carpenter’s guidance,” says Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University.

As a new director, Ele Carpenter is prioritising to establish a new research network for all contributing parts of UmArts.

“UmArts will host research reading groups, lectures, workshops and exhibitions focusing on some of the most important questions of our time: Caring for the Planet, Decolonisation and the Nuclear Anthopocene. This internationally important programme will help to support existing art research at Umeå University and develop new regional, national and international partnerships,” she says.

Ele Carpenter has a long-standing relationship with Umeå University. Already in 2008, she undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in art at Humlab to research her Open Source Embroidery exhibition for Bildmuseet. In 2010, during the lead up to Umeå becoming the European Capital of Culture, she joined the jury on their tour of the city to highlight Umeå’s international cultural network, which she found was a particularly honourable assignment.

In 2016, she curated the exhibition Perpetual Uncertainty at Bildmuseet and commissioned artists to make new work in response to the Nuclear Antropocene. She also participated in the publishing of the Nuclear Culture Source Book that accompanied the exhibition, which also toured to Z33 in Belgium and the Malmö Konstmuseum between 2016–2018.

Portrait photo for download Photo: Darren Banks


Professor Ele Carpenter joins Umeå University from Goldsmiths University of London where she is reader in curating at the Department of Art, and director of the Nuclear Culture Research Group. One of her most recent exhibitions include Splitting the Atom at the CAC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Energy & Technology Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania (2020). Ele Carpenter’s nuclear research has led to her participation in the OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency where she gives lectures and workshops on art and nuclear culture including deep time markers for high level radioactive waste. She is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of the Arts, University of Cumbria, and in 2019, she was awarded her Radiation Protection Supervisor Certificate.

Ele Carpenter originally trained as an artist at Leeds Metropolitan University (1993) and undertook a postgraduate diploma in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at Manchester University (1996) before a traineeship at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. Ele Carpenter then ran a public gallery in Sunderland in Northern England for five years before helping to establish a community cinema collective called the Star & Shadow where she programmed artists’ film and video. She completed her doctoral degree with CRUMB in 2008 at the University of Sunderland, whilst working as an associate curator at CCA Glasgow. She then undertook postdoctoral research at Umeå University before joining the MFA Curating programme at Goldsmiths in 2009.

For more information, please contact:

Eleanor Carpenter
Professor, other position