Getting to Know Elisa Artesero: Manifest Arts Festival Director

Manifest Arts Festival, the biennial festival of contemporary visual art, which celebrates the work of NW based artists returns for a third time this July and will showcase the talent of artists from across the region, featuring over 50 events, exhibitions, workshops and talks across venues in Manchester, Salford, Bolton and Wigan.

With 25 premieres of new work and exhibitions, 15 open studios, 3 workshops, 4 artist/curator talks, 4 performances, several specially extended exhibitions, and over 350 artists – this year is set to be even bigger and better than the previous two. What’s more, everything remains free to attend.

The festival was set up and is run by local visual artists, Elisa Artesero, Roger Bygott and John Lynch to showcase some of the North West’s most talented artists and give members of the general public a greater insight into the world of contemporary art in a way that felt accessible for all.

We had the pleasure of speaking with one of the founders of Manifest Arts, Elisa Artesero, the Light and Text Artist who uses installation, sculpture and photography in her own work to address themes of transience and the nature of happiness and hope.

Elisa has exhibited in the UK, Iceland, France, Montenegro and the Faroe Islands and creates commissions for festivals of light and public art installations. She has recently been selected to exhibit in the 2019-2020 Sculpture in the City programme in London. Ahead of the festival we had a chance to ask Elisa about celebrating Manchester’s burgeoning artistic community, how contemporary art can infiltrate the mainstream and the artists to watch out for across the North.

For those who are new to Manifest Arts can you explain a bit about why the festival was created and what they can expect?

Manifest Arts Festival was created by three artists living and working in Manchester. We’re all part of an incredibly exciting arts community that spreads across studios in the North West. We thought it would be a great idea to give the wider public a chance to see the visual arts scene of events and goings on that are happening at different times throughout the year, but people might not necessarily be plugged into when they’re happening.

The festival brings together all of this in a biennial 10-day celebration across the studios and in venues in the region to make it accessible for the public to pop along and see what fantastic visual art is being created right under their noses! Artists genuinely want their art to be seen by a wider public, so this festival is a way to make that accessible and try to break down any perceived barriers to who people think it’s for.

What can you recommend people go and visit or see?

I’d have to say all of it! But in terms of advice I think the best thing to do would be to select the date and area you will be in (Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Altrincham, Wigan) and see what’s on that day. We’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible with open studios in Manchester on the first weekend (12th-14th July) and those in Salford the following weekend, with special exhibitions and performances in all areas during the week.

On the bill this year are a number of talks and networking opportunities for artists across the city and the wider region, why is connecting artists in this way important to you?

It’s a celebration of the artist community in the region, so as well as giving the wider public access to these incredible artists, it’s also an opportunity for artists to meet one another, see each other’s work, and to build a stronger community and network as a result.

Do you feel that contemporary art is accessible to existing communities in the wider Manchester area?

Relatively, if you look for it. There are the bigger arts institutions such as Manchester Art Gallery, The Whitworth, and HOME that are brilliant entry points to see contemporary art. But we’re making the studios of artists based here open to the public because they’re normally workspaces throughout the year. We’re also showcasing some of these artists in great venues across the North West such as in Chetham’s Library, Manchester Art Gallery, The Portico Library, Saul Hay Gallery, Castlefield Gallery and the Craft and Design Centre – other much-loved local venues. Also, all our events are free to see.

Where did your career in the arts begin and how did you become involved in creating Manifest?

I graduated from Interactive Arts at MMU in 2013 with fellow co-directors, Roger Bygott and John Lynch the following year. I was working as a freelance light and text artist creating art for the public realm at light festivals across the UK and abroad, when John asked Roger and I if we’d be interested in starting a festival that promoted the visual artists working in the region.

We were all part of this community, attending previews and making lots of connections, so it seemed like a good idea. We started with a pilot festival in 2015 and happy to say it went really well with lots of great audience and participant feedback so it spurred us on to run another in 2017, and now this one in 2019, growing larger and longer every time.

What is about the grassroots art that you are drawn to?

It really is about community. As artists we tend to work for ourselves, which can be isolating without a network of other people to work around and be able to connect with. It’s an excellent way to make professional connections, ask others’ advice about working as professional artists, make friends, and show each other our artwork and get feedback on it.

What are you personally inspired by as an artist?

Light and text is my main medium, so definitely those! I love poetry, different types of light sources (artificial and natural), and I’m particularly inspired by architecture and public spaces. My own work is about transience of our existence, the nature of happiness and hope.

I create works in public spaces for people to come across and create a little moment of contemplation in their day. We’re all so busy it’s often easy to forget about the potential for magic and happiness around us, and public spaces can be great to create these moments.

What do you think about the art scene in the North of England? What talent should be looking out for?

It is so VARIED! Look, London is the capital city and has loads going on there and so much of the media spotlight centres on it, but here there is this absolutely inspiring community of artists creating wonderful, thoughtful, weird, eccentric, brilliant artwork that range in excellent technical skills, interesting uses of materials, well developed concepts, and political considerations.

We’re also surrounded by art schools putting out talented graduates each year, many of whom choose to stay in the region because during their time here they realise that it has so much going on across arts, culture and even just to the bars, restaurants and also surrounding countryside. It’s a brilliant place to live. There is a rich and interesting world going on here in the NW that it’s important to shout about and celebrate that sometimes.

In terms of talent to look out for, it’s difficult to single out a few, so I’ll just point towards our first set of Manifest Arts Granada Foundation Micro Commissions for an interesting spread of artists: Rowland Hill, Richard Shields, Denis Whiteside, Jen Orpin, and Akinyemi Oludele who we’ve all commissioned to create new work for the festival.  

As a woman in the contemporary art field, have there ever been any barriers to your progression?

Obvious barriers, no. Ingrained societal biases that create barriers, perhaps. But they’re more difficult to assess. My approach is to try to work with people I like, and surround myself with a network of supportive people, including many women also working in the arts, as that’s a sure fire way of helping each other up and also having role models to look up to. If you see another woman achieving things, then that makes it much more possible to see yourself as being able to do the same.

Can you describe the Manifest Arts festival in 3 words?

Contemporary, Vibrant, Diverse

Manifest Arts Festival runs from Friday 12th – Sunday 21st July and is produced by Manifest Arts CIC. For more information about Manifest Arts Festival, please visit

Twitter: @ManifestArts

Facebook: manifestartsfestival

Instagram: @manifestartsfestival 



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