Ann has had a long interest in Public Art and from 2014 - 17 she headed up the Public Art Project at the University of Leeds. She wrote the first trail of public art for the University of Leeds campus:
She chaired the Curating the Campus: Public Art and British Universities symposium on 11 June 2015. Ann was also joint author of the article (Re) Making Public Campus Art: Connecting the University, Publics and the City, Public Art Dialogue, 7 (1) pp 6 – 43 2017, with co-authors M Zebracki and E Speight. Ann also chaired the symposium 21st Century Perspectives on Murals & Art for Public Spaces: Duncan Grant/Lothar Gotz/Lincoln on 18 March 2016 at The Collection, Lincoln.
Knit-lit Canopies created by communities in Skipton and at Leeds Industrial Musuem, Armley Leeds
Ann also has a particular interest in University campus public art. She also organised, contributed and chaired the Curating the Campus: Public Art and British Universities symposium on 11 June 2015 and chaired the Yorkshire Year of the Textile symposium considering the innovative textile public art on 25 May 2017. Her essay on the public art side of the year of celebrations Yorkshire Year of the Textile inspired by Mitzi Cunliffe’s Man-Made Fibres and Yorkshire’s rich textile heritage, appears in the book Connecting Threads, published in 2017 which considered the innovative practice of contemporary artists across a wide range of forms. Participating artists and poets came together to produce public artworks such as Sue Lawty’s Texta Texens which is located in the walkway below Mitzi Cunliffe’s sculpture, developing a dialogue with Man-Made Fibres above. It was created in collaboration with poet Helen Mort – Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University 2014-2016 – and sculptor Dan Jones. Engraved in the sculpture is Mort's poem Texere the words literally becoming part of the weft and weave of the stonework, exploring the link between text and textiles.
Catalogue cover of the Man-Made Fibres exhibition, 2016
Ann delivered a paper at the Finding a Common Thread: Textile and Communities international workshop in 2016, outlining the scope of the Yorkshire Year of the Textile public art activities, which included imaginative curatorship and community based Knit Lit and History Threads Workshops, with textile artists Elizabeth Gaston and Jane Scott, and poets Helen Mort, Romi Smith and Malika Booker working together with local communities, across Yorkshire discussing their textile heritages. The community canopy public artworks produced at these events, using finger knitting were inspired by the giant hands in Cunliffe’s Man-Made Fibres were displayed at various locations such as Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills and the Royal Armouries, Leeds. Ann discusses the ambitions of the project at the workshop, which can be heard in this YouTube video.
Since 2015, she has exclusively researched the public art created by Mitzi Cunliffe in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool and curated the exhibition Mitzi Cunliffe’s Man-Made Fibres: Commission in Context exhibition. Ann lectured on Cunliffe’s Manchester work at the Whitworth Art Gallery in July 2018, as part of her centenary celebrations. Since the autumn of 2019 Ann has headed up the Mitzi Cunliffe and Manchester Women Artists Project at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her forthcoming book Mitzi in Manchester, reveals much new research on Cunliffe, which will be published in 2020 by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with BAFTA and the Twentieth Century Society North West, and the Manchester Modernist Society. Ann continues to research Cunliffe’s career and her outstanding contribution to British public art, as part of her work as Visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University on Manchester’s Women Artists.
Ann Sumner with Antonia Cunliffe Davis, daughter of the sculptor Mitzi Cunliffe in front of Cunliffe’s Cosmos 1, 1964 Owens Park University of Manchester