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Young People & Galleries: A Case Study


What is the role of galleries in young people’s lives?

In summer 2014 mac presented an exhibition of work by American artist Robert Therrien as part of the national ARTIST ROOMS tour which aims to engage young people with modern and contemporary art. As part of mac’s Next Generation strand of work, mac developed an innovative project which enabled a group of young people to creatively interpret Therrien’s work through the creation of art, marketing and events.

The second city is a young city; around 46% of Birmingham’s population is under 30. Within the city a vibrant arts scene is present, however some young people have found themselves disengaged within this environment. Arts organisations are increasingly directing their programming towards younger groups in the hope of breaking these barriers, allowing for a much more engaging experience.

mac chose the ARTIST ROOMS project as a basis to explore and research the relationship between young people and art galleries. The research was led and carried out by two young people who have previously been part of mac’s Cannon Hill Collective project, as a training and skills building opportunity. The case study allows mac to review and reflect on the relationship between young people and the gallery, and the mutual benefits it brings.

“No one wants to show off that they’ve been to a gallery, you don’t take selfies at a gallery, you can’t and you’re always being watched anyway.” – young visitor to mac.

mac birmingham With over 920,000 visits every year mac birmingham has served as one of the country’s foremost arts centres for over 50 years. With artists and audiences at its heart mac provides opportunities for people from all backgrounds to see, hear and, most importantly, make art.

What role do young people play in galleries? How does a gallery benefit from the involvement of young people? Each year many young people volunteer or embark on internships which support the work of galleries, yet low levels of pay can present barriers to some people entering the sector and furthering their careers.

“Their involvement reminds us that the gallery isn’t just about us or our work, it’s about everyone” – Ruth Claxton Artist and Associate Director of Eastside Projects.

The project achieved • • • • • •

Sound, film and graphic design workshops with the group Skills building and sharing Creative interpretation including film, graphics and installations Creative writing Social media campaign A series of public workshops, events and performances

What is the role of galleries in young people’s lives? Through speaking with young adult visitors to mac events during summer 2014, the researchers discovered that young people have an invaluable curiosity and they require diverse environment for this. Those spoken to felt that galleries have a role to present narratives that are then open to interpretation. Whilst there is a duty to protect the work, they must not appear to guard it. Previously, some young people just couldn’t place themselves in such a surrounding before the ARTIST ROOM events took place. A common consensus was that they had to be quiet; it wasn’t a social space where they could discuss the art. There is a need for approachable invigilators who can engage and propose questions to young people viewing art and make them more actively involved, even just conversationally. Galleries should be activated by the presence of visitors,

encouraging the space to be used by groups and the possibility of workshops not just as satellite activities based around the gallery but in the actual space, thus breaking down the barriers put up by the ‘do not touch’ policy. Throughout the project the role of the physical gallery for young people emerged in different ways. The gallery became a centre of learning about artists and gave an insight into the curatorial process, it became an environment for further curiosity and investigation, for debate and questioning. The gallery became a safe and trusted space for cathartic release and risk taking. The group found an important sense of ownership over the gallery space and used it for workshops and tours. The work and space became a catalyst for further interpretation in film, spoken word and installation.

What role do young people play in galleries?

Learning Following the ARTIST ROOMS project mac will incorporate the learning outcomes from the project into all future planning of exhibitions.

diverse demographics, skills and creative interests which helped shape an eclectic and well rounded programme of activity.

The group involved in the project would have liked to have been more involved even before the show’s installation to really learn about the work and its audience, to have a longer planning stage in order to build trust within the group, grow skills and confidence, and to allow more ownership over the curation process young people will be equipt more fully with the methods to communicate about culture to their peers, with more time given for that process to be truly effective. The project was successful in recruiting from

“Galleries, art centres and creative venues can be a great environment for play, experimentation and risk taking” - Dan Whitehouse, Next Generation producer, mac birmingham

Projects such as ARTIST ROOMS give opportunities for diverse young audiences to build vocational skills, but also allow galleries to benefit from the insight of this audience. Galleries benefit from different perspectives on curating, interpretation and how to break down boundaries between organisation and audience. This is why more young people are contributing as active board members on open-minded gallery boards. The researchers discovered that young people and galleries share common interests; they both seek recognition for their efforts but also face the challenges that come with being stereotyped. Young people are not all alike, and are frustrated by being grouped within such a wide age category. Young people value gaining tangible skills and holding a specific role within a project; this was particularly evident within this project when some members left due to not finding a role within the group.

“I enjoyed the strategising, collaborating, developing and documenting ideas that aim to further engage audiences” - Kamara Daniels, ARTIST ROOMS participant 2014 Arts Council England have set a national goal for arts organisations within their mission ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’; to engage with children and young people: ‘The arts help inspire future audiences, and through work produced by and with children and young people, encourage the next creative generation.’

Summary mac recognises the importance of offering an entry point and catalyst for young people to discover or rediscover their creative capabilities in a supported environment, and to develop skills through exposure and training in a variety of areas. Through this research mac has discovered the mutually beneficial relationship organisations can develop with young people, and by working with diverse groups or individuals the gallery can be reinterpreted and re imagined for the next generation.

Next Gen Creative Agency Following on from the ARTIST ROOMS project, The Next Gen Creative Agency project was created at mac as a direct result of the learning outcomes. The project is designed to offer young people an opportunity to build and learn new skills in all areas of creative arts marketing, and use these skills to creatively communicate events and exhibitions to new and existing audiences to mac.

ARTIST ROOMS On Tour is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by the Art Fund, making available the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art to galleries throughout the UK. ARTIST ROOMS is jointly owned by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland and was established through The d’Offay Donation in 2008, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, and the Scottish and British Governments. With thanks to researchers Meghan Allbright and Lily Wales and the ARTIST ROOMS group at mac. #NextGenBrum The Next Generation programme works with young people aged between 14 – 24 to develop a range of exciting creative programmes to challenge, inspire and reinvigorate the creative resilience of Young People across the city and beyond. The Next Generation Programme is supported by J. Paul Getty Jr. Charitable Trust, The Monument Trust and IdeasTap. Cannon Hill Park | Birmingham | B12 9QH 0121 446 3232 |

ARTIST ROOMS at mac Case Study  

In summer 2014 mac presented an exhibition of work by American artist Robert Therrien as part of the national ARTIST ROOMS tour which aims t...

ARTIST ROOMS at mac Case Study  

In summer 2014 mac presented an exhibition of work by American artist Robert Therrien as part of the national ARTIST ROOMS tour which aims t...