Behind the Scenes: Work begins on staff offices

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Before work can begin on our expansion and renovation, we need to decommission our main gallery building.  This includes moving Curatorial and Learning staff across Margaret Powell Square to join Administration, Finance, Development and Marketing staff already in offices on the first floor of the Project Space. But before that can happen, the Project Space needs minor internal reconfiguration so that everyone can be accommodated and after sixteen years of wear and tear on the building some essential basic redecoration is needed.

For the last few weeks the decorators have been working around staff in the Project Space but on Monday work began in earnest on the office reconfiguration. Five of us moved our desks and filing along the top floor to the large room overlooking Midsummer Boulevard; this will become an open plan office accommodating most of the gallery team.  We vacated and emptied our office in double-quick time, and some redundant, space-hungry furniture and equipment was sent to the skip for recycling.

For the next few weeks we swap gloss paint fumes for the cacophony of builder’s hammers, carpenter’s saws and electrician’s drills…but it will all be worth it in the end when everyone is united in one place and we are a step closer to the main building being ready for handover to a contractor.  Here are a few pictures showing some of what’s been happening; we look forward to updating you with the final results when work is complete!

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Behind the Scenes: Learning Team Research Visits

A South London Gallery commissioned public artwork in nearby Sceaux Gardens Estate.

A South London Gallery commissioned public artwork in nearby Sceaux Gardens Estate.

Over the last week our Learning Team – Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning, Bethany Mitchell, Childhood Learning Coordinator, and Jonny Hill, Early Years Learning Coordinator have made research visits to other organisations in London, seeking inspiration and ideas as they shape our future Learning Programme.  Bethany writes:

“During the Gallery’s expansion period we’re taking the opportunity to research new models of learning and participation for our visitors and fresh ways of working, both in the interim build period and post-expansion.  The first of our trips took us to Gasworks, a contemporary visual arts organisation in Vauxhall, and then Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell. Our second visit was to South London Gallery in Peckham.

At Gasworks, Participation Coordinator Katie Orr provided us with an overview of their learning programme.  We were particularly inspired by their strong inter-generational family learning ethos and excited by the potential for crossovers between age groups in our own future learning programme.

At Glamis Adventure playground their lead play worker Mark shared insights into the value of open space for free play, and its culture of involvement in a dense inner city area.  We must admit that we really enjoyed roaming the colourful landscape of nets, walkways and rope swings and scaling the heights of the painted plank fortresses!

At South London Gallery (SLG) we met with Sarah Coffils, Head of Learning, Heather Kay, Schools and Community Project Manager, and Lauren Willis Children and Families Project Manager to hear about their play centred ethos. Afterwards, on the nearby Sceaux Gardens Estate, we toured their successful ‘Shop of Possibilities’ project. We also saw the impact of the SLG artist commissioned Signs Project , where artists and designers have worked with local residents to improve way-finding and the visual identity of the estate.

We’re enormously grateful to all concerned for the welcome they gave us along with generous amounts of their time. These three visits helped us to appreciate what is at the heart of these organisations’ participation offers for their local communities. We left London full of ideas and even more excited by the potential of the unique visitor participation and engagement programme that we are currently developing for MK Gallery.’”

Learning Team launches The Green Town Group artist-led outdoor learning project

MK’s green spaces. Aerial view, courtesy The Parks Trust. Photo: Steve Carey

MK’s green spaces. Aerial view, courtesy The Parks Trust. Photo: Steve Carey

This week we’re writing to Milton Keynes primary schools inviting them to be part of The Green Town Group, a pilot programme of artist-led activity designed to test new approaches to outdoor learning. Schools’ expressions of interest need to reach the gallery by the deadline of Tuesday 1 December 2015. You can read more about the programme HERE on our website.

The Green Town Project has been conceived in relation to City Club – our major artists’ commission addressing the public realm around MK Gallery in the context of our expansion.  Just to recap, City Club, is a concept framework ‘borrowed’ from an ambitious unrealised project in the original MK Masterplan (the c.1970 strategy document that informed the design and development of Milton Keynes). We’ve commissioned artists Nils Norman and Gareth Jones to revisit the City Club vision to bring to life a proposal for a new type of social space for Milton Keynes.  Norman and Jones will be sharing the results of their initial researches in a presentation at MK Gallery on 10 December 2015.

City Club will comprise three main elements; a garden, piazza and playground.  These elements, and their associated links (landscape, place-making, outdoor learning, gardening, environment, public art, architecture and play), inform our artistic and learning programmes between now and reopening MK Gallery in 2017.

The Green Town Group project addresses the proposed garden element of City Club and the historical positioning of green spaces within Milton Keynes.   Externally perceived as a town designed for the car and indoor artificial ‘experiences’, Green Town Group will focus on the many green spaces and pockets of woodland around Milton Keynes, supporting children and families to respond to, and engage with, their local natural environments.  By exploring the relevance of art and nature to their everyday lives the programme will, in turn, act as consultation for the development of a centralised green space as part of the City Club vision, and inform and underpin a new long-term MK Gallery Learning Strategy, including a focus on learning outdoors.

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Project Briefing for City Breakfast Club this week

Clare Wood, Head of Development, MK Gallery

Clare Wood, Head of Development, MK Gallery

Tomorrow MK Gallery’s Head of Development, Clare Wood, will be guest speaker at The City Breakfast Club, hosted at Doubletree, Stadium:MK.

Clare will be giving business guests an overview of the Gallery’s work, and telling them about our capital expansion and redevelopment project.

Clare says: “I’m looking forward to sharing our development story with members of the Milton Keynes Business community. People often don’t realise the many different ways in which MK Gallery benefits our communities – and the many strands of activity taking place within the Gallery and in schools and organisations throughout Milton Keynes. The Gallery’s exhibitions are a fantastic source of inspiration, which act as an anchor for our publications, films, tours, workshops, talks and other events. It will be great to share the message about the breadth of our activity at this important time in the Gallery’s history.”

In her illustrated talk Clare will be highlighting the impact of the Gallery’s work and explaining why the forthcoming expansion is an important part of the infrastructure which will enable Milton Keynes to continue to thrive over the next twenty years and beyond.

If you’d like to know more about ways of supporting us – and naturally we hope you will – then please visit the Support Us page on our website.