Wherefore ART Thou?

Artists announced

Wherefore ART Thou? artists in residence

We are delighted to announce that Sarah J. Harper, Isabelle Homer, Leona McDonough-Smith, Tegan Robinson-Morris and Kallirroi Vratti have been selected to join Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Wherefore ART Thou? project to celebrate the Company premiere of Radio and Juliet this autumn.

The recently graduated artists and post-graduate arts students from Birmingham City University and De Montfort University, Leicester, have been commissioned to create four pieces of artwork taking inspiration from Edward Clug’s Radio and Juliet, a 21st-century reimagining of the story of Romeo and Juliet danced to the music of Radiohead. As part of the project artists will receive creative professional development, including mentorship by multi-award-winning experiential art duo Davy and Kristin McGuire, and exclusive access to a series of masterclasses, Q&As, interviews and rehearsals. Artworks will be installed in Symphony Hall, Library of Birmingham, Bullring & Grand Central, and Birmingham Hippodrome.

“We are excited to be announcing the Wherefore ART Thou? project and expanding our reach and connection by working with Birmingham City University and De Montfort University to offer opportunities for creative art students. We hope that the artworks will stimulate new conversations and interest in ballet and the Company. Our thanks to the venues who are hosting the artworks and Kristin and Davy McGuire for their support.”

Pearl Chesterman, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director of Learning, Engagement, Access & Participation

The Wherefore ART Thou? exhibition is free and open to the public:  Monday 4 – Sunday 17 October 2021.

Wherefore Art There Logos

Meet the Artists 


Sarah J. Harper

Illustrative Fibre Artist
Birmingham City University

What artwork will you be creating for the exhibition?
I will create a series of four individual pieces, when combined they represent my interpretation of the ballet and accompanying music in forms that express movement and raw emotions.Initially interacting with performers and requesting a few written words from each to stimulate my process, I will interpret the words expressed, translating them from emotions to physical form, similar to how dancers’ use their bodies, manipulating and distorting movements made on stage in their expression of text and scripts. I will document the shapes, words and emotions within my work reproducing an installation in fibreart incorporating 3D spheres of woven, upcycled and freehand embroidered sections using fibres and MDF. Lighting plays a large part in showing off the shadows cast from my work and I would like to be able to work with the venue in this aspect. 

What is your proudest artistic achievement to date? 
I am an artist who specialised in oils, before my journey commenced at BCU and fibres took over! A few years ago, I painted a portrait for a friend's 60th birthday. A total surprise for her, and a surprise for me when I saw it presented on the main wall in her living room a few years later. Proud to have pride of place in a domestic setting.

What are you looking forward to most on the project?
The mentoring sessions offered, the masterclasses, the total immersion into a new creative field of dance are all aspects that I’m looking forward to. However, to be able to exhibit alongside other talented creatives working in partnership with the Wherefore ART Thou? project is a massive excitement. I am so happy to have been selected.


Isabelle Homer

Embroidery Artist
Birmingham City University

What artwork will you be creating for the exhibition?
My idea is to trap the memories of Juliet’s flashbacks in items of clothing worn at each event, using embroidery, dyeing and other textile techniques. For example, a bloody jacket for Mercutio’s death, a costume with spilled wine for the ballroom, and Juliet’s crumpled nightdress. Each piece will be trapped and pinned out like a preserved butterfly, capturing the dark ethereal mood of the ballet and music.

What is your proudest artistic achievement to date? 
Creating an embroidered globe for local art group Cradley Heath Creative, which detailed my experiences of Lockdown and the past year as part of a larger project run by the group. It was an emotionally difficult piece to create, and I’m proud I got through it! It was a turning-point for my work and acted as a starting-point for more in-depth works of my own.

What are you looking forward to most on the project? 
I’m looking forward to meeting other local creatives and seeing how we have interpreted the brief in different ways - being able to see others’ process will be very inspiring, especially in the context of the Ikon Gallery and McGuires’ masterclasses. Working independently can become quite isolating and insular, so I’m looking forward to the mentorship for some outside input to my working practice.


Leona McDonough-Smith and Kallirroi Vratti

Contemporary Dance Artists
De Montfort University, Leicester

What artwork will you be creating for the exhibition? 
We are creating a contemporary dance, best suited to be presented on screen. Our idea is based around what would happen if we were to become cyborg-like characters. In particular, what would their relation to love look like? How are they programmed to love? And does this correlate to how we as humans experience the same feelings. Especially in modern day with all the technology that surrounds us. Have we been conditioned to love in the same way a robot is programmed. We will be exploring whether these beings are able to show vulnerability in the same way we do. 

What is your proudest artistic achievement to date? 
Recently, we both graduated from De Montfort University after completed our BA (Hons) in Dance, Performance and Choreography. This is something we both feel extremely proud of achieving. During this time, we discovered who we are as dance artists and enveloped our individual creative practices. Whilst studying in Leicester, we both successfully auditioned for Aakash Odedra’s pre-professional dance company, Aakash Odedra 2. Here, we had opportunity to learn elements of Kathak and contemporary dance, which has influenced our own practice. Both of these achievements offered us invaluable experiences. 

What are you looking forward to most on the project? 
We are very excited to be involved in this project, and the opportunity to create and present our own work. Though we both have experience in creating dance for screen, this project offers the chance for us to challenge ourselves as artists and develop these skills even more. We cannot wait to meet and learn as much as possible from other artists. Additionally, we are looking forward to receiving mentoring; which we hope will assist us in discovering how we can develop ourselves as dance artists even further. 


Tegan Robinson-Morris

Interactive Installations
Birmingham City University

What artwork will you be creating for the exhibition? 
My proposal  is an interactive piece, which is a typical English letterbox with a twist. The public can post their own letters or write messages directly onto the installation. In reflection of the Radio and Juliet theme, I have used the alternative narrative from the ballet. In particular, the scene where Juliet decides not to kill herself and chooses a life after Romeo. The public will be encouraged to write love letters to themselves, and use the post box to express that self love.

What is your proudest artistic achievement to date? 
This project will be my first venture into art installations from an architecture background, so it has been an honour to be selected amongst so many other talented artists.

What are you looking forward to most on the project?  
This competition stood out for me as I am keen to learn from Davy and Kristin McGuire, and pursue more crossover work into set design and event installations after university. I am most excited for the workshops hosted by the Ikon Gallery and McGuires Studios as they are such a unique opportunity.