Project posters and signage

Yesterday we put some posters on the pillars in the Square outside the Gallery, and another in the entrance lobby to MK Theatre,  to let people know about MK Gallery expansion. We are also want to add some text to the main building at high level, explaining that MK Gallery is expanding and in due course we will surround the construction site with hoardings carrying a mixture of information and interesting graphic designs.  Here is the poster:

A4 expansion poster_Final

Behind the Scenes: MK Gallery Learning Team research visit to Wiltshire

15 September 2015: We join Learning Team staff from the South East region to hear about ways of engaging audiences with art, landscape and outdoor spaces..

Research visit to NewArtCentre, Wiltshire. Our Learning Team join other engage members from the South East region to consider art and audiences in relation to landscape and outdoor spaces.

Although everyone can imagine (and in due course will be able to see) all the construction work that will be needed to deliver MK Gallery expansion, most people will have little or no idea about the vast amount of time, care and attention being spent by our staff and partners on developing and delivering the very best exhibitions, events and learning experiences for our visitors.  So from time to time we’ll share such “Behind the Scenes” activity with you via this blog.

Yesterday, for example, our  Learning Team travelled to the NewArtCentre near Salisbury in Wiltshire for a meeting hosted by engage South East Area Group. The meeting had been arranged to provide an opportunity to explore and discuss art and engagement in the landscape and outdoor spaces.  The advocacy and support organisation engage specialises in gallery education, and being active members of engage helps our staff keep abreast of the very best practice and latest thinking about learning and participation, and how it might apply to us here in Milton Keynes.

Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning explains:  “We were keen to extend our knowledge of outdoor learning in relation to MK Gallery’s future community engagement programme.  Being sited in such close proximity to the wonderful Campbell Park in central Milton Keynes, we’re very keen to consider the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces for our visitors.  Emma Kerr, Education Officer at The Roche Court Educational Trust, provided us with a really useful overview of how she and her team involve their audiences in the art, landscape and spaces of Roche Court.“

Bethany Mitchell, MK Gallery’s Childhood Learning Co-ordinator, who specialises in the needs of children ages 5-11, added:  “I found it particularly useful to hear about the outdoor learning approach that they have embraced at Roche Court.  Although MK Gallery is a “city gallery”, we are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a wealth of green spaces.  Our visit to NewArtCentre was timely, feeding into the plans we are developing in the coming months for establishing an outdoor learning programme that can be offered to both schools and familiesAs we are poised to leave our current main gallery building, it is an exciting moment to look around and explore the wider Milton Keynes landscape for the opportunities it can provide as alternative creative spaces.  It is clear to me that the possibilities of outdoor learning are vast, with exciting potential for us and our childhood audiences.”

Viewpoint: Luton Culture’s new Chief Executive, Marie Kirbyshaw, enthuses about MK Gallery Expansion

Marie Kirbyshaw, Luton Culture, MK Calling 2015

Marie Kirbyshaw, Chief Executive of Luton Culture, visiting the MK Calling 2015 exhibition

Today we’re delighted to welcome Marie Kirbyshaw, the recently appointed Chief Executive of Luton Culture, to our blog. With ten years prior experience as Cultural Services Manager at Milton Keynes Council,  Marie is well placed to comment on MK Gallery Expansion. 

Marie writes:

Since it launched in October 1999 I’ve enjoyed seeing MK Gallery provide high quality experiences for both artists and audiences. For me this includes stand out exhibitions such as the inaugural Gilbert and George show, and one of my all time favourites, the exquisite Pae White exhibition, through to more intimate family workshops, as well as “Lost & Found”  activities (an MK Gallery mentored Young People’s programme) where young individuals were given opportunities to curate parallel artistic programmes, enabling them to grow in both skills and confidence.

I was pleased to work with MK Gallery from the early stages of the expansion project in order to support the £2m capital funding contribution from Milton Keynes Council and to ensure that value is returned in benefits to local people. I’m thrilled at the prospect of MK Gallery delivering an even broader cultural programme through its expanded building, and the positive impact it can have on everyone’s daily experience of living in, working or visiting Milton Keynes.  

Although I have left MK Council, my interest in the Gallery continues as a visitor and I remain a strong advocate for arts and cultural in Milton Keynes.   So in this first week of closure of the main building, I wish Director Anthony Spira and his team every success in their work to bring this exciting project to fruition – it will be such an important and timely addition to the city in 2017, its 50th anniversary year!” 

It’s the Final Take Down…

MK Calling 2015 deinstallation

It’s a momentous (and slightly nostalgic) time for us this week as we de-install MK Calling 2015, the final exhibition in our building in its current  form.  This is the first step towards de-commissioning the building during the autumn period, in readiness for work starting on MK Gallery Expansion.

Activity started with museum-standard condition-checking of all the exhibits and has continued with preparation of works for collection by artists and lenders, using protective materials such as acid free paper, padded corner protectors, reams of bubble-wrap and various bespoke packing crates.  Work is progressing fast, including removal of a temporary partition wall that sub-divided the Long Gallery.

MK Calling 2015 deinstallationMK Calling 2015 deinstallationMK Calling 2015 deinstallationMK Calling 2015 deinstallation

Regular public events will continue in MK Gallery Project Space throughout the development. Platform 2015 featuring work by selected recent fine art graduates can be seen until the end of September, and our Flashback project exploring our 16 year exhibition archive launches on 8 October 2015. Remember we’re calling for your memories, memorabilia and ephemera connected with our past programme – more details HERE.

Final chance this weekend to see MK Gallery building in its current form

MK Calling 2015 Launch

Group photo of some of the 70 MK Calling 2015 artists and performers at the start of the preview on 2 July 2015.

This weekend (5/6 September) is the final opportunity to view our summer exhibition, MK Calling 2015 before it closes at 5pm on Sunday afternoon.

That means it is also the last chance to view the building in its current form, before we begin to decommission it in readiness for renovation and expansion. It’s exciting to think that the next time the building opens it’s (new) doors to the public will be for its relaunch in 2017!

So if you’ve never been, hurry along, and if you’re a regular visitor, why not drop in for a nostalgic look at the place, and how about posting a picture of yourself with your favourite work in the show on social media as a memento?  We can’t wait to invite you back to visit the new space!

Another reason to visit this weekend is the temporary, immersive artist audio installation exploring how the deafblind perceive sound. Free to visit in MK Gallery Project Space, it is the creation of sound artist Matt Lewis and national deafblind charity Sense.  Visitors will be able to try out ambisonic (surround-sound) systems, sub bass vests (allowing wearers to feel vibrations of low-end sound frequencies) amongst other things.  Opening times and more details HERE.

And don’t miss the chance to see recent fine art graduate Emma Richardson’s week-long show in the Project Space. Its the one of four presentations as part of our annual Platform project. Details HERE.

Please be assured that while the main gallery building is under development, we’ll still be very active, delivering a lively weekly programme of children’s workshops and public events in our Project Space, plus various offsite initiatives. And on 8 October 2015, exactly 16 years since MK Gallery first opened to the public,  our Flashback archival project opens. This series of monthly displays, presented online and in the Project Space, will allow us to explore our 16 year exhibiting history. For more information on Flashback, and details of how you can participate, see HERE.

Successful launch of final show in current building

MK Calling 2015  Launch

Group photo of some of the 70 MK Calling 2015 artists and performers at the start of the preview on 2 July 2015.

Last week we had a hugely successful launch of MK Calling 2015, the final exhibition in our building in its current form before we start our ambitious renovation and expansion.

With an artist group photo at the start, and welcome speeches followed by a hog roast, music and two performances, a great time was had by more than 500 people, and the weather was perfect! We’ve posted some of the preview pictures HERE to give you a flavour of the occasion.

During the welcome speeches Julia Upton of the MK Community Foundation announced their fantastic £311,000 grant award for access in the new building.  Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council, described MK Gallery as a hidden cultural gem and looked forward to the expanded version in 2017 and its contribution to the future cultural life of the city.  Listen to the speeches  here:


Join us on 14 July
Our display of the latest expansion floor plans in the ground floor Events Space proved popular; don’t forget you can see the plans again and hear architect Tom Emerson from 6a talking about them at a free event on Tuesday 14 July at 1pm.  Do join us  as we’d really love your views on how everything is shaping up. Find more information and booking details HERE.

We welcome your support
Fundraising is going well, but as Director Anthony Spira reminded us during the speeches we still need to raise more for the expansion and welcome your support.  Here are some different ways you can help:

  • Make a donation on site and via our website
  • Make a text donation by texting MKGA17 £    followed by the amount of your donation to 70070. You can text donate £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.
  • Become a patron of MK Gallery
  • Talk to us about major gifts and naming rights

If you wish to discuss ways to support, please contact:
Clare Wood
Head of Development
01908 558 313 or


MK Community Foundation announce grant supporting access

Julia Upton, MK Community Foundation

Julia Upton, Chief Executive, MK Community Foundation, announcing the award of £311,000 for access facilities for the expanded MK Gallery from the Margaret Powell Foundation Fund on 2 July 2015.

We are thrilled to report that the MK Community Foundation has announced the award of a grant of £311,000 from the Margaret Powell Foundation Fund for state of the art access facilities in MK Gallery. The grant will ensure that by 2017 the expanded MK Gallery building will be accessible and enjoyable for everyone, including visitors with severe disabilities, their carers and families.

News of the award was confirmed by Julia Upton, Chief Executive of the MK Community Foundation before hundreds of guests during the welcome speeches at our summer party and MK Calling exhibition preview last night. Fittingly, the speeches took place in Margaret Powell Square, the public space in front of MK Theatre and MK Gallery.

Julia says:  “With the legacy of Margaret Powell, our new city’s first philanthropist and her commitment to Milton Keynes being accessible to everyone, regardless of age or disability, we were able to support this key cultural development for the community. It’s vital that the needs of disabled visitors to MK are embraced as we continue to build the city’s cultural infrastructure.”  

Anthony Spira, Director of MK Gallery says: “We are thrilled to be working with MK Community Foundation to ensure that the MK Gallery expansion fully serves the needs of our community. There is a strong link between culture and wellbeing and this grant enables us to bring the positive benefits of cultural engagement to everyone, whether by engaging with exhibitions and events, participating in targeted learning programmes or using Gallery resources to be inspired by the arts.”  

By 2017 the expanded gallery will include access routes of a generous width, accessible signs, portable seating and a Changing Places toilet – a facility for those whose needs mean they are unable to use a standard accessible toilet. These provisions will hugely enhance the experience of visiting MK Gallery and the Changing Places toilet will open up the venue to an entirely new audience that is currently unable to make extended visits to the Gallery.

The MK Community Foundation accepts funding applications from not-for-profit organisations working for the benefit of the community.

To hear opening speeches from the 2 July preview and summer party visit MKFM Radio website HERE