Professor Alec Shepley

Professor of Arts and Society

Picture of staff member

Alec is Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Arts and Society at Wrexham University. An experienced HE leadership coach, Alec is also an award-winning leader in Higher Education. He originally trained in fine art and has always been engaged in place-based practices and the societal and pedagogical aspects of creative practice; rooted in the firm belief that education is the key to transforming lives. His artworks have been exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally, with examples held in a number of public and private collections in north America, Europe and Asia.

Alec is a member of the Royal Society of Arts, a Senior Fellow of Advance HE, a Journal Reviewer for Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Program for Arts-based Research (PEEK), a Full Fellow of the Royal Cambrian Academy, and a member of European League of Institutes of the Arts. Alec’s Artistic Research has attracted funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the British Council, the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Wales. His research emanates from art practices concerning people and place, working across discipline boundaries and the boundary between art and life.

His Art+ strategy, based within Wrexham School of Art Fine Art department, is is a strategic programme of collaborative research projects involving selected partner institutions, creative practitioners, and funded PhD studentships with an aimed to build an evidence-base of how creative practice is key to human wellness and more broadly, a common treasury.

Research Interests

Alec is research lead within the Faculty of Arts, Science and Technology and is leading a major £3.2m EPSRC funded research project within the university Ecological Citizenship (2023-2027), investigating inclusive approaches to positive climate action for future generations, building agency and user-led responses and interventions for individuals, communities and organisations that empower sustainable practices. The Ecological Citizens Network+ project promotes opportunities so all can be Ecological Citizens, through an inclusive sustainable society and is in collaboration with the Royal College of Art and the Stockholm Environment Institute at York University.

Alec is also co-investigator on the £4.1m AHRC funded ‘COMP’ (Community Open Map Platform) on the Isle of Anglesey is a research project led by Cambridge University in partnership with Cardiff University and Wrexham University. The Community Open Map Platform will bring together multiple layers of spatial information to give a social, environmental, cultural and economic visualisation of what is happening in a neighbourhood, area, local authority, region or nation.

Alec’s Artistic Research has attracted funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the British Council, the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Wales, and his artworks have been exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally, with examples held in a number of public and private collections in north America, Europe and Asia. 

His practice and research focus on people, place and purpose - how art can reach out beyond its own 'echo chamber' and how creative, art-based activities can lead to positive outcomes for the individual and communities.

Project Art+ within Wrexham School of Art, has led to a number of research projects in the fields of art and the digital audience; art and health; art and play; art and community; and most recently art and ecological citizenship.

 

Research Projects

Title Role Description From/To
Ecological Citizens Co-investigator Ecological Citizens is a 4 year project (with over £3.6m) based at the Royal College of Art in collaboration with the University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute and Wrexham Glyndŵr University. Funded by UKRI's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the project's aim is to establish the Ecological Citizens Network+. As a research network, Ecological Citizens will mobilise diverse groups of people to make impactful change through accessible technology and community-focused approaches – including citizen science, activism, collective learning, advocacy, design strategies, manufacturing, environmental science and engineering practices. 2023 - 2027
Community Open Map Platform (COMP) Co-investigator The AHRC funded ‘COMP’ (Community Open Map Platform) on the Isle of Anglesey is a research project led by Cambridge University in partnership with Cardiff University and Wrexham University. The Community Open Map Platform for Future Generations: Charting the green transition on the Isle of Anglesey/Ynys Môn (full title), will bring together multiple layers of spatial information to give a social, environmental, cultural and economic visualisation of what is happening in a neighbourhood, area, local authority, region or nation. Creative practitioners (in this case, Bards) will facilitate the creation of map layers, constantly growing in information and sophistication, and reconfigured according to local policy and boundaries. Most importantly they will be developed and monitored with and by a representative cross section of the local community working directly with people in communities to understand and capture their stories and challenges in a creative way. 2023 - 2024

 

Publications

Year Publication Type
2023 DEFINING ECOLOGICAL CITIZENSHIP: CASE-STUDIES, PROJECTS, & PERSPECTIVES ANALYSED THROUGH A DESIGN-LED LENS, POSITIONING “PREFERABLE FUTURE(S)”, Design for Adaptation Cumulus Conference Proceedings Detroit 2022. 
Dr. Robert Phillips1, Dr. Sarah West2, Alec Shepley3, Sharon Baurley1, Tom Simmons1, Dr. Neil Pickles3, Daniel Knox3
Conference Publication
2018 You and I are discontinuous beings, 
Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2018 Contouring with a sweeping brush as a catalyst for social engagement and urban renewal, 
Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2017 Disclosing ambivalence: contouring, uncertainty and the paradox of escapology, 
Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2017 Idiosyncratic Spaces and Uncertain Practices: Drawing, Drifting and Sweeping Lines Through the Sand, 
Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2016 Camping in a Mudhouse: Ruins and Fragments as Tropes of Reflexivity, [DOI]
Shepley, Alec
Peer Reviewed Journal
2014 Ibid, 
Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2011 Distance 2 Sofia Art Exhibition, 
McClenaghen, John;Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2009 Distance Exhibition, 
McClenaghen, John;Shepley, Alec
Other Publication
2006 Seeing Walls Exhibition, 
Shepley, Alec;McClenaghen, John
Other Publication

Honors and Awards

Date Title Awarding Body
2019 Inspiring Leadership Advance HE

Professional Associations

Association Function From/To
Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) Senior Fellow  
Royal Society of the Arts Fellow  
European League of Institutes of the Arts Member  
Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Program for Arts-based Research (PEEK) Journal Reviewer 2018
Theatr Clwyd Public Art Steering Group Member 2020
Royal Cambrian Academy Fellow  
National Association for Fine Art Education Member  
Oriel Wrecsam Advisory Board Member 2016 - 2018
East Midlands Visual Arts Network Advisory Board Member 2013 - 2016
PARADOX Fine Art European Forum Member 2015

Committees

Name Description From/To
Glyndwr University, APSC (Academic Programmes Sub Committee)   2016 - 2022
Faculty Board of Studies (FAST)   2016
Research Committee   2023
URDCSB Member/Dep. Chair 2023

Employment

Employer Position From/To
Wrexham Glyndŵr University Head of School & Professor of Contemporary Art Practice, School of Creative Arts 2016 - 2018
University of Lincoln Senior Academic, Fine Arts, College of Arts 2014 - 2016
University of Lincoln Senior Academic & Head of School, Lincoln School of Art & Design, Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design 2008 - 2014
Wrexham University Dean of Faculty, Arts, Science and Technology 2018 - 2023

Education

Institution Qualification Subject From/To
Manchester Metropolitan University Doctor of Philosophy Installation Art Practice and the ‘Fluctuating Frame’ 1996 - 2000
Sheffield Hallam University Master of Arts Art & Design (Fine Art) 1991 - 1993
Manchester Polytechnic Postgraduate Certificate in Education Art & Design Education 1986 - 1987
Wolverhampton Polytechnic Bachelor of Arts Fine Art 1983 - 1986

Journal Reviewer or Editor

Journal Name Activity From/To
"The commons of microbiome, money and language” by Klaus SPIESS Peer Reviewer 2019
Contingent Agencies" by Nikolaus Gansterer Peer Reviewer 2017

Other Professional Activities

Step 5 x-church
Step 5 brought together 32 contemporary artists to share their reflections on the pandemic and our changing world. x-church is driven by a genuine desire to deliver social good by a community that is artist-led and largely unfunded, and it is that sense of care and belonging that makes it such a special place. x-church has the impact that cultural bureaucrats declare in art funding mission statements, but rarely deliver. The Turner Prize 2021 endorsed the role art collective have in social activism and change. x-church is the sort of meaningful art collaboration that is at the heart of this proposition and making a contribution to social change via projects such as this.
02/07/2021
You and I are discontinuous beings
Drawing practice is the research area producing this output. 'Untitled, Essai' (embroidered shadow drawing) calico, grey thread, wooden frame). From a series of drawings or essais using the embroidered stitch as a way of tracing a faint line made from a drawing of an already transient and fleeting subject matter – that of shadows and reflected light playing on the walls of the studio. Reinforcing the line as it reverberates within the room is akin to the reverberations of sounds in all rooms - everywhere. The ephemeral play of light is contrasted with the quiet intent of labour.
03/05/2018
Without Borders
Separate but interlinked manifestations of activities explored across a range of media, ideas around transdisciplinarity and even an anti-disciplinarity. 22 communities and nearly 300 artists from around the world.
01/01/2021
Are we there yet?
 This installation was the result of an ongoing collaboration with north Wales-based artist Paul R Jones exploring various activities and located practices, crossing-over between art and ‘not-art’, purposefulness and purposelessness. The works in the final show included video documentary, recorded conversations, photographs and various ephemera from the various activities assembled around a large-scale diorama including scaffolding and two life-size canoes. The show provided the viewer with an opportunity to question the nature and value of art and underlined (paradoxically) the very nature of its indefinability. This exhibition brought together works created specifically for the gallery and forwarded the positive effects of (apparently) doing nothing (wandering/searching) and how this can lead to something interesting.
14/08/2021
A Breath of Welsh Air
Selected to show A Breath od Welsh Air in 48 hrs Neukölln which is a forum for artistic projects from all branches of the Berlin art scene with guests from overseas. The festival presents and promotes art that makes a contribution to current social issues and reflects them. It integrates all population groups - regardless of age, ethnic origin and social position. In 48 hours, art shows that it is more than exhibits in galleries and museums: that it connects, confronts, communicates and has a concern. Discursive, participatory and interdisciplinary approaches are therefore in the foreground. Show supported by Wales Arts International; British Council and toured to 48 hrs Novosibirsk at the Goethe-Institute, Novosibisk, Centre for Culture ZK19.
01/06/2023
Heterotopic Encounters
Exhibition of twelve selected artists living/working in the NE Wales region each exploring, through located practice, Foucault’s ideas around space of otherness. The show comprised twelve separate but interlinked manifestations of activities explored across a range of media, ideas around transdisciplinarity and even an anti-disciplinarity.
10/03/2020
Ars Magna Lucis
Selected to produce an installation for the Llangollen Fringe Festival with an light work that transformed a derelict print works overlooking the town and the River Dee, into a lantern. The work ‘Ars Magna Lucis’ (art of great light) transformed a space regarded locally as an ‘eyesore’ into something potentially beautiful, but with as minimal an alteration to the building’s façade and generally decrepit appearance as possible. After several weeks working within the ruined interior, The Old Berwyn Works was reimagined - this redundant relic of the industrial age, was converted it into a magic lantern-space - a giver of light.
 
Pilot Hole
Hole in the Wall Gallery is a series of impromptu public art happenings occupying small void spaces in the urban landscape done in partnership with Oriel Wrexham Gallery’s Off-site programme. Pilot Hole was series of seven consecutive 24hr installations, by artists and students based in north East Wales. Hole in the Wall Gallery and specifically Pilot Hole are part of an enabling discussion around future work – a larger scale project in Wrexham about reimagining its cultural infrastructure through occupying vacant spaces. Although a very lively place, with large numbers of people present at any given time of day, there is often a sense of decline and failing infrastructure within Wrexham town centre. Located practice in this project explores differences in the infrastructure precipitated by utopian and dystopian templates. Through located art practice or socially engaged art practice, this rather negative impression can be turned on its head. The Hole in the Wall Gallery, Wrexham, rather than being a fixed building, exists as a series of impromptu public art happenings occupying void spaces around the town. In this iteration of the project, Pilot Hole was housed within a void space in the wall at the old Fire Station, Bradley Road in Wrexham, the exact dimensions of which are 17.5cm (w) 11.5cm (h) 18cm (d).
19/05/2019