Arts Council England awards £750,000 towards ‘City Club’

Gareth Jones and Nils Norman: City Club - sketch for a Playscape,

Gareth Jones and Nils Norman: City Club: design for a playscape

Arts Council England has announced that MK Gallery is one of three successful applicants to the latest round of its Ambition for Excellence programme, and is to receive £750,000 for the ambitious ‘City Club’ project.

City Club is the exciting new programme of arts and culture led by MK Gallery and devised with artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman.  The programme will bring arts organisations, artists and communities from across Milton Keynes together, to help celebrate Milton Keynes’ 50th anniversary and the launch of the expanded MK Gallery in 2017.

City Club aims to refresh the area around MK Gallery, MK Theatre and the approach to Campbell Park in the city centre, creating welcoming spaces that everyone can enjoy.  Inspiration will be taken from the iconic original designs for Milton Keynes and focus on three types of public space: the piazza, playground and garden.

City Club will include new public art commissions, a programme of live events led by The Stables, digital projects led by  Bletchley Park and partners, and numerous talks, workshops and engagement programmes. These city-wide activities will provide important talent development opportunities for local artists, unite many of the city’s arts organisations in their delivery, and involve extensive and diverse communities.

City Club is designed to strengthen the network of arts organisations across Milton Keynes in order to increase the profile and impact of cultural activities in the city and to prepare a Milton Keynes bid for European Capital of Culture 2023.  Ambition for Excellence funds the first phase of City Club. Audiences and partners engaged through this phase will enjoy future use of world class art facilities via MK Gallery’s £11 million renovation and expansion.

Anthony Spira, Director, MK Gallery, said: “We are thrilled that Arts Council England is continuing to support the arts in Milton Keynes. It is a huge honour to be part of the Ambition for Excellence Portfolio, alongside many prestigious national organisations. This award will enable the gallery to partner with organisations across the city to deliver exciting projects for larger and more diverse audiences, in time for the city’s 50th anniversary. This project will also complement MK Gallery’s ambitous expansion plans, so that culture can become, once again, central to the city’s identity.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “MK Gallery’s ‘City Club’ is an exciting new project and we are delighted to be able to support it through our Ambition for Excellence fund. It will see artists and communities from across Milton Keynes work together to recognise an important milestone in the city’s history through a programme of new artworks, events and residencies. But more than that, it will also reconfirm the important role that arts and culture has had in developing Milton Keynes as a unique place and a great place for people to live, work and visit.”

Milton Keynes Council are also important investors in the City Club programme. Councillor Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council commented: “We are delighted that Arts Council England is supporting the City Club programme.  Working in partnership with talented local artists, grassroots organisations, schools, disability groups and others, MK Gallery is leading on exciting cultural developments that will have a great impact on the cultural heart and soul of our city during our MK50 celebrations.”

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The City Club Programme

Contributing to the MK50 celebrations in 2017 being led by Milton Keynes Council, City Club will manifest as multiple projects and city-wide activities across four main strands:

  • Public art and infrastructure – landscaping in the vicinity of MK Gallery, to enhance the east end of Midsummer Boulevard, including a ‘playscape’, a piazza and a garden
  • Engagement – a learning and community programme exploring the three themes of gardens, piazzas and playscapes, to result in films, publications and display, and ‘City Lab’ talks, events and artists’ professional development
  • Animation and Celebration – to include Live Art commission led by The Stables, digital commissions led by Bletchley Park, a mobile public art commission led by Milton Keynes Arts Centre, and an Underpass commission, led by On the Verge with The Parks Trust
  • Documentation and Contextualisation – a film and book by Stuart Whipps and and a symposium led by Inheritance Projects

A ‘Citylab’ will be formed – a mini-faculty of local artists, architects, musicians and writers –  to brainstorm and animate the project as it develops.  Freee Artist Collective and renowned American artist Vito Acconci will work with the Milton Keynes Arts Centre to create a large-scale mobile sculpture called ‘Citizen Ship’, which will travel throughout the city visiting residential estates, schools and playgrounds.   Project Art Works will continue working with MK Gallery on programmes involving people with severe and complex needs.  Artist Stuart Whipps will produce a film and book documenting the project, while curator Claire Louise Staunton, in association with the Open University, will organise a seminar and conference around art’s role in building communities in New Towns across the world. Playing Out delivered by artists Townley & Bradby, and Meet Back Here will help forge strong relationships with the Gallery’s neighbouring estates of Fishermead, Springfield, Downs Barn and Conniburrow. These activities will form part of a larger engagement programme connecting MK’s diverse communities through consultation, exploration and participation.

City Club is funded by Arts Council England and MK Gallery, with support from Milton Keynes Council.

Ambition for Excellence
Ambition for excellence Arts Council England’s £35.2 million funding programme for stimulating and supporting ambition, talent and excellence across the arts sector in England.  It aims to expand arts infrastructure (especially outside London) and contribute to the development of strong cultural places.   MK Gallery is among three organisations to receive funding in the fourth round of the Ambition for Excellence programme, which will see the Arts Council invest nearly £2.1million to support ambition and talent across England. For more information about Ambition for Excellence see HERE

For Arts Council England’s national news announcement today on the Ambition for Excellence recipients see HERE.

Behind the Scenes: Building Signage

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Since last autumn we’ve been informing passing visitors about MK Gallery expansion with a combination of posters and vinyl signs that can be seen at eye level on our main building and project space. But yesterday we were pleased at last to add  some boldly-scaled text signs high up on the main gallery, to further promote the exciting news of our expansion.

We’ve added a few simple words that can be read in association with the existing gallery logos on two façades.  Now, from across Midsummer Boulevard, drivers and pedestrians can easily read the message “MK Gallery is expanding” and on our main entrance in Margaret Powell, thousands of theatre-goers and other passers-by will see the message “MK Gallery reopening 2017”. This signage scheme will remain in place for most of the construction period, and is intended to be visible above the safety and security site hoardings that will enclose the building later this spring.

Behind the scenes a surprising amount of work went into getting a few words up high on the building! We teamed up with MK-based company Signarama for the project who know our building well, as they successfully instated our striking branded graphics scheme over 5 years ago. Work began last summer, with the recommendation of a cost-effective and convenient vinyl signage method, that met our brief.

Tracy Clark of Signarama explains: “As the painted rendered surface of MK Gallery’s main building has an “orange peel” rather than perfectly smooth finish, we wanted to be confident that the vinyl would survive weathering and stick properly.  For this reason we produced some sample letters printed onto vinyl with an ultra tack adhesive and applied a protective matt laminate over the top.  We then ran a test application of the letters for four months on an inconspicuous bit of wall at the staff entrance. Inspecting the test patch last week, we were satisfied that the vinyl material was up to the job and happy to proceed.

In the meantime we applied to MK Council Planning Department for the relevant advertising planning consent. Once again, Signarama provided support by producing detailed scaled drawings / photographic visualisations for the application, indicating the exact position and scale of the text on the building. We also shared the design for the signs with our neighbour MK Theatre in case they had any feedback, and we were pleased to have their endorsement of our advertising planning application from their General Manager, Emma Sullivan.

Since 31 December 2015 when we were granted advertising planning approval, we’ve had very wet weather and some lively hurricane force winds! But yesterday Signarama felt that the conditions were right to work at height to install. Taking advantage of a perfectly still, sunny, if rather chilly afternoon, they completed the task in a couple of hours, carefully avoiding the hoards of school children filing around our building at the start and finish of “Gangsta Granny” at MK Theatre.

Our thanks to Signarama for all their professional assistance. We love the results and hope you do too. Here is a slide show of some pictures taken during the installation.

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The Green Town Group Project Starts

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The Green Town Group outdoor learning project started this week with a packed day of school and outdoor location visits by lead artist James Aldridge, who writes:

On Monday I visited all four participating schools, and went exploring in the two Milton Keynes Parks Trust locations we’ll be using, Howe Park Wood and Campbell Park. The two sites are so full of contrast, yet equally full of possibility.

It was brilliant to meet all the children that I’ll be working with. While visiting the four schools I showed them images of my artwork to get them thinking about what is possible – how we can use art to explore, record and interpret different places. 

The children have so much enthusiasm and loads of ideas of their own, which is great. I want them to feel real ownership of this project, and for that to happen it needs to be focused around what they themselves notice and are excited by.”

The four participating primary schools are: St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary School, Bletchley; Holne Chase Primary School, Bletchley; Brooklands Farm Primary School and Pepper Hill School in Bradville.

Here are some pictures taken during James’ visit to Howe Park Wood this week:

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And are some pictures of James’ research visit to Campbell Park:

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The Green Town Group project is supported by The Ernest Cook Trust.  For more details see website HERE.

 

MK’s Art and Architectural Heritage in the Spotlight

Demolition_hockeystadiumStreet sign

In the context of our planned main building renovation and expansion, the recent Outrage Milton Keynes talk by Tim Skelton (chair of MK Forum) proved both popular and interesting.

Tim’s talk ranged from MK’s architectural heritage losses (including the demolition of Bletchley Leisure Centre and the National Hockey Stadium near the CMK rail station) to more mundane matters such as street signage and replacement double glazing.

Taking his cue from Ian Nairn’s celebrated 1955 Outrage edition of Architects Review which drew people’s attention to the fact that places were starting to look the same, Tim described the uniqueness of Milton Keynes and the need to value its defining characteristics moving forward. He appealed for new buildings to be of the highest possible design standards and aspirations and concluded with the quote from Paul Finch in Architects’ Journal, November 2014; “How can we make this city more like itself, rather than more like somewhere else?”

In speaking with Tim after the talk he observed that MK Gallery’s City Club proposals serve to remind people of the original architectural and design spirit of Milton Keynes, and the possibility of losing this if we’re not careful. What are your views on MK’s architectural heritage? We’d love to hear from you!

Looking ahead, Tim will be speaking at MK Gallery again on Thursday 17th March. Full details are still to be announced, but the talk will be on the subject of public art in Milton Keynes in the context of Historic England’s recent protected status listing of over 40  post-1945 public artworks, including a Bernard Schottlander sculpture in Milton Keynes.

Meanwhile, you can read about the latest additions to MK’s public art collection on our website, including Sam Jacob’s temporary work MK Menhir sited above a Porte Cochere on Midsummer Boulevard. MK Menhir is also the subject of an article in the February edition of AJ magazine.

For the Transform leaflet and map detailing MK’s four new public artworks, click HERE.

Photos of National Hockey Stadium demolition and examples of local street signage courtesy Tim Skelton.