Case Study

Cause & Effect arts project at Howardian Hills


Cause and Effect was a partnership artistic collaboration culminating in a multi-faceted exhibition combining river-inspired art, local oral histories, scientific definitions, creative writing, and interactive activities which was shown at two iconic locations within the Howardian Hills.

The partnership involved three key organisations: Howardian Hills NL, The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership and the National Trust.

The two artists involved, John Arnison and Paula Hickey worked with us for over 3 years to produce a body of work which shone a different light on the River Rye and its communities.

The project was so successful because it drew in so many facets of landscape exploration and was experienced by a whole cross-section of audiences from school children to university students to 90 year old farmers. As well as being beautiful to look at, it was also informative.

Watch video

Courtesy of the Howardian Hills National Landscape.

What was done

In 2019, the National Trust at Nunnington Hall introduced the Howardian Hills NL team and the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership to two artists.

John Arnison is a photographer specializing in night-time waterfalls and portraiture. Paula Hickey is a graphic artist who experiments with process and materials to produce abstract art.

We introduced the artists to the landscape of the River Rye (which flows from the North York Moors into the Howardian Hills) and the science of fluvial geomorphology and how art and science share many processes and forms.

The artists were then taken out into the landscape to key locations along the river. We were followed by a film crew who documented the artist’s journey. This was shown as part of the exhibition.

Paula produced a body of work using water, cyanotype, inks and river materials to respond to fluvial processes. John headed out in the dark to photograph the river and met and photographed some oral history participants in their landscape.

Concurrently, Ryevitalise were facilitating creative writing workshops with local secondary schools and working with Middlesborough Institute for Modern Art (MIMA).

The poetry from the children was incorporated into the exhibition along with origami boat making with which we created a communal artwork. MIMA students spent a day exploring the exhibition, the landscape and had workshops with both Paula and John and went on to create sculptures responding to oral histories collected by Ryevitalise.

All of this resulted in a wonderful organic mixing of different projects and an inter-generational, inter-disciplinary project.

The exhibition was shown at Nunnington Hall for 6 months in 2022.

It was re-invigorated and shown at Hovingham Hall as part of Ryedale Open Studios in 2023.

"Cause and Effect is one of the best art exhibitions that we have ever hosted at Nunnington Hall because it touches on so many different aspects of the landscape and its people."

National Trust

Courtesy of Howardian Hills National Landscape


  • 32,000 people visited Nunnington Hall while the exhibition was showing.

  • 29 students from MIMA (Teeside Uni) took part in two days of workshops. 6 of them created sculpture installations shown publicly.

  • 300 secondary school children from 2 schools took part in creative writing workshops.

  • 37 adults took part in creative workshops with the artists.

  • 500 visitors to the Hovingham Hall exhibit.
"Cause and Effect went way beyond being just an art exhibition. It enriched the practice of the artists and landscape practitioners, energised children and inspired visitors. It connected so many people to their landscape and the science and beauty of rivers."


Courtesy of Howardian Hills National Landscape

Key learnings

  • Equal partnerships bringing different skills sets: scientific knowledge, design and curation and knowledge of the landscape.
  • Being open to opportunities to bring different projects together for mutual benefit.
  • Multi-disciplinary, varied and interactive exhibition components.
  • Documenting from the beginning, with a film crew, to capture and show the process and the journey of the art-science interaction.
  • Don’t underestimate the challenges presented by Grade-one listed buildings when presenting art work.
  • Plan marketing and communications well ahead, link in with other local events and organisations to maximize footfall and project benefits.