Molly and Sophie at Palazzo Bembo main

Cumbria Fine Art graduates exhibit at world’s biggest art festival

Two recent graduates of the University of Cumbria have just returned from the trip of a lifetime after being part of an artistic collective to exhibit at the world’s biggest art festival – the 60th Venice Biennale. 

Molly Hughes and Sophie Steadman, pictured above, are graduate artists in residence at the university, based at the Brampton Road campus in Carlisle where they completed their own Fine Art degrees

They are also founders of SoMo, an artist collaborative project they launched during their final year of their degree programme. SoMo aims to provide and promote opportunities for Cumbrian artists including current and former students at the university’s Institute of Education, Arts and Society. 

The alumni pair were invited to take part in the Venice Biennale by Cumbria-based artist and founder of the ‘Proseed project’ Daniel Ibbotson. Molly and Sophie first met Daniel in 2021 when he gave a talk to students at the arts-based Brampton Road campus. Daniel went on to offer Sophie and Molly opportunities to gain experience at the Manchester Art Fair and Glasgow Art Fair. 

Daniel also launched the ‘Proseed project’ in August 2020, as a response to the lack of opportunities for artists during the pandemic. The ‘Proseed project’ helped scores of artists in Cumbria and beyond, providing opportunities such as pop-up galleries and fairs to exhibit their works.  

Daniel, who first displayed work at the 2022 Venice Biennale, went on to receive a personal invitation to exhibit once again at the international festival. This time he decided to share the incredible opportunity with other artists in a collaborative piece by the Proseed collective. 

The Proseed collective works - which includes over 40 artists (30 from Cumbria) - are now on show in Venice until 24 November at Palazzo Bembo which overlooks the grand canal and Rialto Bridge. 

Daniel selected Molly and Sophie for Venice based on their use of text (which he uses in his own work) and thought what an opportunity for recent graduates to be given.  

After seeing their work develop, Daniel had no hesitation in offering them a chance to take part in the world’s biggest art festival.  

Daniel hopes they can both take huge confidence and experience gained in their recent trip to Venice into their future work. He will be continuing to look for opportunities to display their talent. 

Molly said: “Being a part of this experience was unlike anything I could have hoped for or expected so early on into my career as an artist. I feel so fortunate to have been thought of to exhibit alongside some incredibly talented artists from Cumbria.” 

Sophie added: “Having only graduated last year, I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity and am extremely grateful to be involved. Not only is the exhibition an amazing thing itself, but it’s also given me the chance to meet fellow artists, as well as exhibit alongside them. We both thank Daniel Ibbotson for the opportunity.” 

The Institute of Education, Arts and Society offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate study programmes in subjects such as animation, Film and TV, Fine Arts, Games Design and Development, Graphic Design, Illustration, Photography, Wildlife Media and Creative Practice. 

Final preparations are also in hand to deliver two new digital degree apprenticeship programmes - creative digital design professional and digital user experience UX professional. 

Brampton Road campus building

Above: University of Cumbria Brampton Road campus, Carlisle

The institute's latest cohort of graduating students will be showcasing their talents in the university's annual undergraduate degree show soon. The work of 80 students will make up the 'Made In Carlisle' exhibition at the Vallum Gallery, on the Brampton Road campus, Carlisle.

Free to visit, the exhibition is open to the public Monday 3 - Friday 7 June, 10am-4pm daily, ahead of an open day at the Brampton Road campus on Saturday 8 June.

For details and to register for the open day, visit 


Notes to editors

  • For interview requests, contact the university communications team via email at or call 01228 279360 


Main - (l-r) University of Cumbria's graduate artists in residence Molly Hughes and Sophie Steadman at Palazzo Bembo, 60th Venice Biennale (Picture: Eddie Potts, fellow exhibitor)