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“Mr Arkwright” draws into Cromford Mills

25th July - 3rd Nov
Interactive water and cycle powered drawing machine

A mill site, where innovation changed the world is now hosting an art installation which takes those innovations in a whole new direction!

The interactive art installation, designed by artist Jo Fairfax, is a water and cycle-powered drawing machine which takes inspiration from Sir Richard Arkwright’s early career as he started out his journey as entrepreneur, inventor and architect of the modern factory system. The installation makes reference to Arkwright’s water-frame, a water-powered cotton spinning machine which was a starting point to large scale production of cotton thread. Where the water- frame made cotton thread, this machine makes drawings!

Visitors to Cromford Mills, part of Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, can operate the drawing machine by cycling a tandem, which triggers a hydraulic mechanism to create an image. Each participant will be able to take home their water-powered drawing as a souvenir. It is hoped that this will attract a broad range of visitors of all ages to have a go and have some fun! The installation will be at Cromford until 3rd November. Any donations raised will contribute to inspiring young people about our heritage.

Pedals and water power the drawing machine

“The work is a fantastic example of where science, engineering and art comes together to produce something quite unusual and unique which can be experienced on different levels. It is also a great example of how art can be used to help interpret our heritage,” said Simon Wallwork, CEO Cromford Mills.

Jo Fairfax commented, “I find Richard Arkwright’s achievements really inspiring. His mind combined engineering, architecture, mechanics, nature, housing, entrepreneurship, business and invention. This artwork, ‘Mr Arkwright’, pays tribute to his multifaceted mind in a contemporary way. I am not making a moral comment on social welfare or capitalism, but making a comment on a brilliantly inventive mind that worked in a way like most modern minds need to, crossing boundaries and multi-tasking with ease.”

The drawing machine

Funding for this project is thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England’s pilot programme of Great Place Schemes across England looking at the importance of culture in placemaking. The installation forms part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site’s Scheme working to bring arts and heritage together, and enhance a sense of pride and belonging to this special part of the world.

Councillor Barry Lewis, Chair of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnership and Leader of Derbyshire County Council said, “The Great Place Scheme is allowing us, amongst other things, to commission 3 major art installations over the next 2 years. Jo’s commission is the first, which we’re really excited about. A second installation and event is planned for Belper in the Autumn, with Japanese contemporary textiles artist Seiko Kinoshita, which we hope to link with the Japanese Season of Culture.”

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