Virtual ‘fly-through’ visualises our major expansion plans

ETL Visuals, the computer graphics and videography division of Evidence Talks, has created a 3D fly-through animation showing what MK Gallery will look like when it reopens in 2019.

Aiming to provide a good understanding of the enhanced cultural facilities the Gallery will bring to the Milton Keynes area, the company’s fly-through visualises all the proposed expansions and re-developments which will see its programmes transformed through vastly extended exhibition areas.

Starting with an external view showing the position of the new auditorium in the existing site, the fly-through proceeds to showcase the architectural journey from the inside. Areas visualised include the refurbished entrance, bookshop and existing gallery space as well as the new gallery spaces, dedicated learning space and updated café.

Introducing our first 2018 Family-in-Residence – the Salter family!

We’re delighted to re-introduce the Salter family as our first Family-in-Residence of 2018. Last November, the Salters took over the Saturday Studio workshops for the whole month. Everyone that came to the November workshops had so much fun and we’re excited to welcome them back, working in collaboration with artist Lee Farmer.

Please meet mum, Tammy, Lilla aged 12, Joshua aged 10 and Ruby aged 9. As a family, they love spending time together, whether its outdoors with their MK Adventurer’s Troop, or at home, reading, gaming and trying out all arts and crafts. Between them they knit, paint, model, print, carve, sew, embroider, quilt, sketch, make their own props, toys and journals and generally love experimenting and getting messy. We hope you will join in the fun when they host their own event Random Acts of Craftiness, which will be announced later in the new year. Please keep an eye on for dates and further infomation.

You can find out more about becoming an MK Gallery Family-in-Residence here.

Guests celebrate the start of MK Gallery’s expansion

Last Saturday, we held an event to mark the start of our major capital expansion. Guests included Sir Nicholas Serota CH, Chair of Arts Council England; Peter Horrocks CBE, Vice Chancellor of The Open University; Tom Emerson, Co-Director of 6a architects; Jack Kirkland, Main Board Director of Bowmer & Kirkland; City Club lead artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman; and many past and present trustees and supporters of MK Gallery.

MK Gallery expansion celebration, 21 October 2017. From left to right: Tom Emerson, 6 architects, Co-Director; Will Cousins, MK Gallery, Chair of the Board; Sir Nicholas Serota CH, Arts Council England, Chair of the Board; Jack Kirkland; Bowmer & Kirkland, Main Board Director; Anthony Spira, MK Gallery, Director. Photo: Jane Russell.

MK Gallery expansion celebration, 21 October 2017. From left to right: Anthony Spira. MK Gallery, Director; Judith Barker, SEMLEP, Programme and Assurance Manager; Dr. Ann Limb CBE DL. SEMLEP, Chair of the Board; Sir Nicholas Serota CH, Arts Council England, Chair of the Board; Councillor Liz Gifford, Milton Keynes Council, Cabinet member responsible for Place; Ian Revell, Milton Keynes Community Foundation, CEO.

Guests celebrate the start of MK Gallery expansion works, 21 October 2017. Photo: Jane Russell.

MK Gallery expansion celebration, 21 October 2017. From left to right: Nils Norman, City Club Lead Artist; Jack Kirkland; Bowmer & Kirkland, Main Board Director; Tom Emerson, 6 architects, Co-Director; Sir Nicholas Serota CH, Arts Council England, Chair of the Board; Anthony Spira, MK Gallery, Director; Gareth Jones, City Club Lead Artist. Photo: Jane Russell.

View more photos from Saturday here.

Whilst construction takes place MK Gallery continues to deliver an exciting programme of activities including City Club. Gareth Jones and Nils Norman are the creators of City Club, a project developed by MK Gallery in collaboration with artists and arts organisations across Milton Keynes. Find out more at and

Construction begins on MK Gallery’s much anticipated expansion

Image: MK Gallery expansion visualisation. Image courtesy of 6a architects.

This autumn, major construction commences on MK Gallery’s ambitious expansion. This will see the current building double in size and the creation of new cultural facilities in Milton Keynes. Reopening in 2019, the Gallery and its programmes will be transformed through doubled exhibition spaces for historical as well as contemporary art, a multi-purpose auditorium for film, music, dance and other activities overlooking the city’s green spaces, a dedicated learning and community space, excellent access facilities and a welcoming new café bar and shop.

Working on an exciting design by 6a architects, the expansion is being delivered by main contractor, Bowmer & Kirkland with project management and contract administration by Jackson Coles. Through extensive consultation with local residents and stakeholders, the design has been refined in partnership with MK Gallery, Milton Keynes Council, and Arts Council England.

Award winning 6a architects has garnered a reputation for its sensitive and engaging buildings. The design for MK Gallery includes references to the original development of Milton Keynes in the 1960s and 70s telling the story of the city’s visionary heyday, in collaboration with artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman.

MK Gallery Director Anthony Spira said: ‘It is a source of immense pride to be bringing what will be a world-class venue to Milton Keynes. The new building will be fully accessible so that we can provide the very best arts experiences for wide audiences and extend our work with families, community groups and those impacted by health, financial and social concerns. The arts are an incredible resource for creating cohesion between diverse individuals, nurturing wellbeing and ultimately creating stronger communities.’

Bowmer & Kirkland, is of the UK’s most successful privately-owned construction, engineering and development groups. Main Board Director, Jack Kirkland, said: ‘We at Bowmer & Kirkland are tremendously excited to be working on this project. We are very proud of the work that we have done and are doing in Milton Keynes and we hope that this expansion will be an outstanding contribution to the cityscape. Speaking personally I have enjoyed many great shows at MK Gallery and I look forward to seeing what Anthony and his team will do with the new space.’

Speaking about the expansion Councillor Liz Gifford, Milton Keynes Council Cabinet member responsible for Place, said: ‘Milton Keynes was founded on an understanding of the value of arts and culture as the foundation for strong, lively and fulfilled communities. This is a legacy that continues today. What more potent demonstration can there be of Milton Keynes’ belief in the value of culture than for the MK Gallery expansion to be commencing in the year when we celebrate the city’s 50th anniversary and as it prepares its bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.’

The expansion of MK Gallery has been made possible with the generous backing of Arts Council England, Milton Keynes Council, SEMLEP and many other generous trusts, individuals and businesses. The funders recognised MK Gallery’s track record in delivering excellent and innovative local and international arts programmes, particularly praising its partnership working and success in bringing new audiences to the arts.

Hilary Chipping, Deputy Chief Executive of SEMLEP said: ‘MK Gallery’s expansion secures its position as an excellent cultural asset for the South East Midlands. SEMLEP’s Local Growth Fund investment in MK Gallery reflects our commitment to supporting the high-quality cultural arts offer across the area. This contributes to the quality of life for residents, supports our strong visitor economy and strengthens our cultural and creative sector.’

Throughout construction, MK Gallery is delivering City Club, a programme of new art, performances, family activities, happenings and talks inspired by the original cultural plans for Milton Keynes. Further details can be found at

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 or call 01908 558318 for more details. 

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