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.

MK Gallery patrons visit Juergen Teller’s new studio

Juergen Teller Studio, London, April 2016. Photograph by Johan Dehlin. Courtesy 6a architects.

Juergen Teller Studio, London, April 2016. Photograph by Johan Dehlin. Courtesy 6a architects.

The Gallery is working with 6a architects on its major renovation and expansion. Last week, our patrons enjoyed a tour led by 6a’s Tom Emerson of one of their recently completed building projects, photographer Juergen Teller’s studio in North London. MK Gallery patron, Peter Howard, describes the visit:

“The artist and fashion photographer Juergen Teller’s new studio is a bright spot in a nondescript part of west London. A group from MK Gallery was shown around last week by the architect, Tom Emerson of 6a architects, who is of course responsible for designing the major extension and remodelling of MK Gallery. Interestingly, a solo show by Juergen Teller, Don’t Suffer Too Much, took place in MK Gallery in 2003.

The studio occupies a narrow but deep plot in a terrace. Tom explained that it is really three square buildings aligned down the length of the plot, separated by landscaped courtyards. The first contains two storeys of conservation storage and offices, the second is a spacious top-lit studio, while the third is more domestic in character. Glass doors and covered walkways down one side of the site set up a linear route from the entrance, linking all three buildings through the courtyards.

A palate of in-situ concrete, plain concrete blocks, and large windows onto the courtyards gives the scheme an understated dignity, and the neutral tones that Teller required. The lack of finishing plaster and the exposed electrical conduits impart a gritty precision that challenged the builder, but result in a finely crafted place, while remnants of the historic party walls and an approach to landscaping that derives from a study of London bomb sites establish a truly London context.

Having visited this finely designed project, we came away feeling impatient to see the completed new MK Gallery.”

The tour was followed by the UK premiere of Chaises Musicales, Swiss artist and past MK Gallery exhibitor Eric Hattan’s recent performance piece with musician, composer and fellow countryman, Julian Sartorius. The event, which was held at Café OTO in Dalston, was also the UK launch of a new catalogue published by Holzwarth and MK Gallery, Works 1979-2015, surveying Hattan’s career to date. Video footage of the performance will be available to watch on our Media Channel shortly.

MK Gallery patrons generously support the Gallery’s work and in exchange receive access to unique events, tours and activities. If you would like to know more about becoming a patron, please contact Clare Wood on 01908 558 313 or email support@mkgallery.org

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.

 

FF&E Meeting

Some of the attendees at the 11 Jan 2016 FF&E Planning Meeting

Team members concentrating on FF&E matters yesterday

Yesterday we had an extended meeting lasting most of the day to consider the procurement of FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) for the expanded gallery. This involved relevant staff and some of our professional team members (including 6a architects, and acoustic specialists Charcoal Blue in detailed discussion about the “nuts and bolts” of running the new gallery. The areas under consideration were our front of house facilities, the new Shop and Café, the multi-purpose auditorium, the learning space, and last but not least, the galleries themselves.

Kate Chadwick, Head of Operations at MK Gallery, said: “It’s really exciting to now be getting stuck into the detailed planning required to deliver this wonderful new facility for MK. We’ve been working with a retail consultant for advice on our Shop, but it would be lovely to hear from our audiences about their expectations in terms of what it should provide, or which other gallery shops they think we should consider as excellent models. Anyone with thoughts is welcome to email me via kchadwick@mkgallery.org

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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