Our second Arts Award Sharing Session

MK Gallery Arts Award Adviser, Sophie Bennett, describes our second Sharing Session of the summer season:

Our Arts Award journey continued on Saturday as we met for our second Sharing Session of the season to find out about artists! We explored the exciting Townley and Bradby exhibition A Game Played in the Gallery Over Two Days, currently showing in the Project Space. The children were so excited by what they found; a den, little toys, technology, plants and stones that had been painted on. We then came up with words to describe some of the things they discovered or felt whilst exploring the exhibition. Some of my favourites included experimental, fun, shapes, alive and somewhere to hide. The group couldn’t believe that the exhibition was created by children and that they were a family of artists.

We then had the opportunity to interview an artist called Betsy from the artist duo Kaleidoworks, and watch some of their thought-provoking video art. Everyone was fascinated, and sometimes a little confused, by the animations of moving leaves, running water and changing colours. They asked Betsy some fantastic questions about her art such as ‘What inspires you?’ and ‘How do you come up with ideas?’ followed by my personal favourite question of ‘How much do you get paid?’! Thank you Betsy for being so honest with your answers and helping the group with their Arts Award journeys.

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A fantastic start to our Arts Award summer season

Sophie Bennett, Arts Award Adviser at MK Gallery describes the first session of the new season:

The summer season of Arts Award at MK Gallery has officially begun! This month, children signed up to start their Discover and Explore Awards and we began our journey at July’s Sharing Session with an exploration of the many different art forms that Milton Keynes has to offer. Fashion and design in the centre:mk, public sculptures all over the city (but of course we were most interested in the concrete cows!), music at the Stables, drama and ballet at Milton Keynes Theatre, graffiti on the underpasses, architecture in the buildings around us and drawing and painting right here at the Gallery. We then began by drawing and collaging our art forms onto a giant map of Milton Keynes. This got everybody’s minds thinking about what art activities they were going to take part in next for their Awards!

Many of the group have been coming to our Saturday Studio sessions to try out different art activities, which this month are based on future visions of Milton Keynes. Last Saturday was all about recreating iconic buildings from around the city using our imaginations and paint. We had a shopping centre that was turned into a magical sweet shop, the Point was reinvented as a funky modern art gallery and polka dot clouds that floated in the sky while futuristic electric cars moved about the streets below. What a fantastic start to the season!


You can find out more about Arts Award at MK Gallery by visiting our website here.

Taking on a challenge for MK Gallery

On the 1 May 2017, four runners participated in the MK Marathon and Half Marathon to raise money for MK Gallery. The Gallery was delighted to be a charity sponsor at the marathon weekend this year, along with other local charities, including MK Dons Sport and Education Trust, St Francis’ Children’s Society and Milton Keynes YMCA. Our runners all took on the challenge and despite the rain, the day was a success.

Families and friends of runners also joined MK Gallery staff to make flags to wave at their loved ones. Led by MK Gallery’s Associate Artist, Willow Mitchell, the flag-making activity was very popular both with young and older supporters.

Next month, Kate Mooney will be participating in the Great North Swim for MK Gallery and in October, we will be supporting another fundraiser at the Leicester Marathon.

There are more opportunities to support MK Gallery throughout the year. It is a great way to challenge yourself, whilst also raising money for local cultural development and educational programmes in Milton Keynes. Applications for runners for MK Marathon 2018 will be open soon and advertised in our newsletter. If you would like to support MK Gallery at an upcoming challenge event, please contact Ellen Myers via emyers@mkgallery.org or call 01908 558318 for more details.

https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/mkgallery 

MK Calling 2017 opens this April

MK Calling 2015 participants at the launch

This spring, MK Gallery showcases new and exciting work by over 70 emerging and established artists in MK Calling 2017. This exhibition will celebrate and champion the breadth of creativity in and around Milton Keynes and includes a wide range of art forms alongside a dynamic programme of events and participatory sessions.

Building on the highly popular MK Calling exhibitions in the summer of 2013 and 2015, this year’s show will see artists utilise and transform unusual spaces within the Gallery. Provocative, humorous, sensitive and brash, the exhibition includes artists of all backgrounds; all of whom have a connection to the city, either through locality or their practice. As well as discovering the finest new talent, we are delighted to offer repeated opportunities for local artists to display work, with more than a third of the past exhibitors making a welcome return. Diverse themes and subjects will be explored through painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation and much more. Many of the artists have chosen to respond directly to our expansion plans and will present site-specific work that looks at architecture and the fabric of the building in its current form.

Over the last few months, the Gallery has been examined by architects and builders through digging, drilling and other physical interventions to test the foundations, structure and services in anticipation of our major expansion. For this exhibition, the basic access and health and safety have been temporarily restored to enable the building to be opened up for one last time before construction begins. With the exhibition designed to make the most of the makeshift quality of the building, artists and visitors will have exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the entire ground floor, including the old workshop, loading bay, shop and other improvised areas.

The MK Calling 2017 preview with live music, food and drinks will take place on Thursday 20 April from 6-10pm. Speeches will take place at 6.45pm. Everyone is welcome. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked here.

Speaking about the exhibition, MK Gallery’s Director Anthony Spira, said: “We’re delighted to celebrate both the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes and this exciting chapter in the Gallery’s development by bringing together the diverse creative community for MK Calling 2017 and offering opportunities for all those with a connection to the city to meet, share ideas, network and participate in mentoring and workshops.

MK Calling 2017 runs from 21 April to 27 May 2016. Admission is free.

New commission will celebrate the sounds of Milton Keynes in its 50th anniversary year

Caroline Devine

Composer and sound artist Caroline Devine has been selected to create a large-scale and ambitious new artwork which will celebrate the sounds of the unique city of Milton Keynes in its 50th anniversary year. The project is part of City Club and will be led by Bletchley Park working in partnership with Milton Keynes’ arts and heritage organisations, the Open University and MK Gallery.

The artwork will explore the heritage of Milton Keynes and the way in which sound relates to people, memory, time and place. Describing her plans to develop the work, Devine states: ‘I am starting a sonic investigation of Milton Keynes that will include sounds, signals and voices from the city. I’ll be listening, researching archives, making field recordings and interviews and presenting this work both in the form of a multi-channel sound installation and online’. The resulting piece is set to be installed in centre:mk in October 2017.

Iain Standen, Chief Executive Officer of the Bletchley Park Trust said “Bletchley Park is an important element of the heritage of Milton Keynes and we are proud to be playing a part in the 50th birthday celebrations. As Bletchley Park is a birthplace of the digital age, it is very fitting for us to lead the digital strand of the City Club project, and we look forward to Caroline Devine’s innovative work delivering a bridge between the past and the future, and an exciting experience for everyone to enjoy”.

Kevin Duffy, Centre Director at centre:mk says: “centre:mk has a long, proud history of supporting the arts in Milton Keynes and we are delighted to host this exciting soundscape by Caroline Devine. Our iconic building is the perfect venue for interesting and unusual art installations, and they never fail to surprise and delight our guests”.

Devine’s site-specific sound installations provide playful and unexpected encounters with sound outside of a conventional gallery setting. She has twice been nominated for a BASCA British Composer Award for work based in Milton Keynes: in 2014 for On Air, a large scale outdoor sound installation for The Open University campus in Walton Hall; and in 2013 for 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun, outdoor multi-channel sound installation in the Dome, Theatre District.

The commission forms an integral part of City Club, a city wide programme of new art, performances, family activities, commissions, happenings, events and talks inspired by the original cultural plans for Milton Keynes which will enable thousands of people throughout Milton Keynes to explore, enjoy and be inspired by their surroundings. Led by MK Gallery and delivered in partnership with the city’s arts and heritage organisations, the project takes its name from the unrealised national leisure complex proposed for the city by Milton Keynes Development Corporation in the 1970s.

An interview between Caroline Devine and Iain Standen of Bletchley Park can be found in issue one of the City Club newspaper which is available for download HERE.

MK Gallery    Arts Council England    MK Council      MK50

The Open University     Ernest Cook Trust     The University of Northampton

Last chance to see Andy Holden’s new installation

Photo: Andy Holden

Photo: Andy Holden

It’s the final weekend to see a new installation by Bedford based artist Andy Holden, commissioned by MK Gallery, within the MK50 anniversary exhibition, A New City Comes to Life.

The artwork, which is currently on display in Middleton Hall, the centre:mk, is based on a series of staged photographs of young couples kissing against iconic public sculptures in Milton Keynes. These photographs are hung on large-scale cut-outs of the sculptures, creating a mini sculpture park, which the artist imagines as a stage set for more activities and interaction.

Some of the most well-loved public artworks in Milton Keynes are featured in the installation. Elisabeth Frink’s Horse, Essence by Wendy Taylor and The Space Between by Eilis O’Connell sit alongside replicas of three classic works by Bernard Schottlander. Andy Holden’s interpretation of these MK landmarks is part of the body of work, MI!MS (Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity), a manifesto for art practice that Andy and a group of four friends developed when they were in their teens. A film and paintings from MI!MS, can be seen in MK Gallery’s Project Space until 28 January.

Describing why he chose Milton Keynes as the backdrop for his romantic photographs, Holden states: “It intuitively made sense to me. It came from a photo I’d taken of a couple kissing on the base of a public sculpture when I was travelling in Germany eight or nine years ago. It was complete chance, but looked staged. I wanted to re-create this and Milton Keynes’ strange abstract sculptures, lurking in corners I’d discovered whilst roaming around, were always at the back of my mind. It was certainly in tune with how Milton Keynes had seemed to me as a teenager.”

The installation also marks the beginning of City Club. During 2017, MK Gallery will bring together artists and arts organisations from across Milton Keynes to celebrate our unique city’s 50th anniversary through a programme of new art, performances, family activities, commissions, happenings, events and talks inspired by the original cultural plans for Milton Keynes. The project will enable thousands of people throughout Milton Keynes to explore, enjoy and be inspired by their surroundings. Visitors to the Middleton Hall exhibition can find out more about the programme and Andy Holden’s artwork by picking up issue one of the City Club newspaper, alternatively download a copy HERE.

A New City Comes to Life runs until 23 January 2017. Entry is free.

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Photo: Andy Holden

Photo: Andy Holden

Family Performance

Over the next two years, MK Gallery will work with Townley and Bradby on Playing Out. As a collaborative artist practice involving two parents, and at times, their three children, Townley and Bradby incorporate mundane domestic routine and the emotional intensity of family life into their art. They will be artists-in-residence for two years in Conniburrow, and the neighbouring communities of Fishermead, Downs Barn and Springfield working alongside participatory artist Georgina Manly and a research student from the University of Northampton. Their work in Conniburrow will link up with Big Local Conniburrow, a groundbreaking project run by the local community.

The family describe their first encounter with the MK Gallery staff team:

We make work about the family, and sometimes we do this as a family. Vic* suggested that for our first encounter with the other MK Gallery staff we could do a presentation of some sort. The idea was to give staff an idea of our approach and our practice. In our experience the slides+speaking format doesn’t access the ways that children think or communicate. We wanted to use a format that all five of us could take part in.

This year we have been trying out ways of performing as a family. So far, the main features of our family performances seem to be:
– tension and arguments in the days beforehand
– minimal rehearsal (ideally no more than half an hour)
– a clear structure that we can improvise around
– some props

The performance took place in the Project Space and made use of the five large windows. As the gallery staff were coming in, we were in our places, on the window ledges, hidden from view by the blackout curtains. Once everyone was seated we began to sing long notes and to gently waft the curtains. After a few minutes we stepped down into the room. We kept hold of the hem of curtains so they dipped and climbed behind us like vampire capes. We then took turns at telling the other four to be quiet and to listen. Every so often we would dash to a table to grab one of the props to help us. The props included velvet dog ears, woolly leg warmers, a cock’s comb hat, various percussion, a Russian hat, a rain stick, a head scarf. Each dash to the table was a chance for the others to steal that person’s place. We ended by all trying to balance on the same small wooden stool.

*Victoria Mayes is Head of Learning at MK Gallery