Art Is In Our Hearts: Excel Beyond Spreadsheets …Bonington Art Shop

Above: £50 voucher from Bonington Art Shop….

Boningtons Art Shop is twenty one years old, nearly twenty two: the same age as many undergraduates and post graduates. I’ve ‘known’ about the shop, ie through friends who’ve studied and worked at Trent and have studied art. The grapevine around the shop is that it’s a great resource for students and the community but really, noone but the students and the grapevine know about it.

All the profits from the shop go back in to the art and design department.

I love the shop and this Christmas was given a £50 voucher to spend there. As I browsed through canvasses, paints, brushes, charcoal, oil pastels, papers, pens, printing materials as well as silks, I thought: this is a really well stocked shop: I’d like to write about it.


Above: paper, card, backing, brushes, greeting cards

Trent University became one of the new universities in 1992. The Bonington Art Shop seems to be one of many opportunities to innovate that staff were able to take to grow the former Trent Poly into the new kind of local, regional, national and international institutional hybrid it has become. But the platforms we celebrate as ‘now’ are only possible through the ground preparation of all kinds of people in the university over many years.

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Above The ARC NTU Singapore smart campus 2018 Find out more here

Back in 1996, the ‘network’ was generation to generation from local art and design college courses (that would maybe lead to a place at Trent) and word of mouth. You’d buy art materials while meeting students and artists, talking about the graduation shows at Bonington Gallery…the model was living and working cross generationally: technicians and teachers, students, workers and local people collaborated…

That groundwork, the investment in talent through the courses and the shop (all the profits from the shop go back into the courses) that has enabled the development of The Bonington Art Gallery inside the university and then Nottingham Contemporary and New Art Exchange (as well as the Syson and Backlit) and….well, there are now 18 art galleries and venues in Nottingham that have evolved over those 21, nearly 22 years. See the Nottingham Art Map 

Consider the way we see networks now: we like and tweet and link in…and yet what makes this art materials shop special is that it’s grown organically with key staff and the support of former students who bring their knowledge to part time (and full time) employment in the shop.

Bonington art shop opened in January 1996 in the form we now know, but first as a service to students (and former staff and students). It was the brain child of the Dean of the School of Art & Design, Eddie Newton who sadly died in October 2016. Originally the first shop was opened under a different manager in the basement of Newton Building.

What’s interesting when you talk to the manager of the shop Jane Diver, was that the shop has grown through the real life needs of the people who worked there.

A First for NTU: a social enterprise back in 1996.
We talk now about how work can become more family flexible while being competitive (see the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices but it was already happening at Trent in 1996 when Jane Diver started as a part time worker in the Bonington Art shop.

Family friendly doesn’t just mean a workplace that supports people with families…which you may read in one of the many tabloids as ‘discriminating against people who don’t have children’. What family friendly and flexible working really mean are good relationships with all staff and properly inclusive recruitment and retention.

Relational working where the needs of the team are part of the audit of the needs of the business builds strong businesses.

With a background in children’s social work (with terminally ill children and children with physical and emotional challenges),  Jane applied for (and got!) a part time role in the shop when her son started school.

The shop was just developing. In the last twenty years  the energy of the staff, the will of everyone to get involved has enabled it to became a great template for a social business. As a customer it’s a place where history and culture, past and present, old and young are important and that’s because of the vision of the people who continue to run it.

Jane’s story (and way of telling it) is very interesting, watch this space!,

Above: a view of some of the art materials at really good prices available at Boningtons

Nottingham Trent University, School Of Art & Design, Bonington building, Dryden St, (off Shakespeare St) Nottingham NG1 4GG 0115 848 8498

Boningtons open Wednesday 9am–4pm
Boningtons open Thursday 9am–4pm
Boningtons open Friday 9:30am–3:30pm
Boningtons open Saturday Closed
Boningtons open Sunday Closed
Boningtons open Monday 9am–4pm
Boningtons open Tuesday 9am–4pm


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