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

Visitor Information Centre promotes Gallery expansion with new film

Destination MK (DMK), the city’s official tourism and information provider, is to help raise awareness of MK Gallery expansion via a new short film it has produced for the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) which serves the city’s tourists and the wider community. Steven Gordon-Wilson, Chief Executive of DMK, tells us about it:

Steven Gordon-Wilson, CEO, Destination MKFrom this week onwards our new short film about MK Gallery will be visible 24-7 in the window of the VIC (facing John Lewis department store in centre:mk). It joins a show-reel of looped films promoting MK’s major attractions.

The film features MK Gallery’s Director Anthony Spira outlining the gallery’s current activities and signals the exciting range of exhibition and events that will be possible in the renovated and expanded building, serving bigger and broader audiences.

Our remit at DMK is to promote MK to a national audience, and inform them about the wealth of activities on offer when they get here. There is a great synergy between MK Gallery’s objectives and those of DMK, as the gallery is an important visitor attraction that feeds into the local economy, and has an international pull.

We can’t underestimate how important MK Gallery is to the cultural offer in MK as well as to the broader tourism piece.  The exciting expansion plans will only enhance this and we’re pleased that we can shout about it in our real shop window as well as our online one!

MK Gallery are founder members of DMK and via our Marketing Group and Board work closely with our organisation on a number of projects, including the newly opened Visitor Information Centre. 

Our marketing focus for 2016 is going to be heavily arts and culture based.  As the creative minds of the city look ahead to IF:2016, MK Gallery’s reopening in 2017, and other cultural milestones, it seems clear that we should be shouting about what a cultural hotspot MK really is.”

As well as being available in the VIC the film can also be seen online at www.destinationmiltonkeynes.co.uk.


City Club Presentation available online


A packed audience of almost a hundred people enjoyed Gareth Jones and Nils Norman’s City Club presentation here on 10 December, and now we’re pleased to be able to share it with you via this LINK.

Gareth and Nils have spent recent months brainstorming options for developing a sequence of public spaces between Milton Keynes Theatre, MK Gallery, Campbell Park and Midsummer Boulevard – including ideas for  landscaping, enhanced signage and a new ‘playscape’ – that would create a dynamic, welcoming environment to be enjoyed, used and animated by visitors and residents alike.

In their presentation, Gareth and Nils referenced the Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s unrealised plans for a national leisure complex in the 1970s and how it had inspired their thinking, research and ideas.   Imagery alternated between a mix of Milton Keynes Development Corporation archival materials, cultural images typifying decades from the 1960s to the present, and Gareth and Nils’ sketches and models.  The audience enjoyed slides ranging from a photo of an MK playground designed by Archigram (sadly demolished), to the cover of a David Bowie album, a Biba design for a baked bean can, and the extraordinary exterior of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.

Gareth and Nils shared different ways that MK has responded to the last six decades, touched on the influence of modernism and post-modernism on the public realm, and how they’ve developed their own “what if…” series of sketches, models and drawings for a series of spaces that everyone can enjoy.

The artists referred to their respect for the Central Milton Keynes grid plan, and the original city infrastructure, including key elements of paving, porte cocheres, distinctive benches, and globed street lamps. They flagged that many of these features are missing in the Theatre District and said they’d love to reintroduce some of them, suitably developed for the 21st century.  Through their City Club proposal they wish to offer people an exciting  “index of possibilities” or conceptual framework to reanimate and bring back to life the original utopian vision for Milton Keynes.

The evening finished with an enthusiastic Q&A session, including participation from some of our arts and heritage community and local councillors.  Gareth and Nils confirmed that, should funding become available, the City Club would enter an extensive period of consultation with groups and individuals, and start to address some of the scheme’s specifics and practicalities.

For a flavour of the presentation, we share this short slide show, which includes views of the talk and of the research sketches and models that the artists displayed for the audience in the next room. And finally, there is a happy picture of the Deputy Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Stephen Coventry and the Deputy Mayoress Leanne Lacy, who’d just been saying how much that they’d enjoyed the talk and how they looked forward to keeping up with the City Club’s progress.

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Gareth Jones and Nils Norman have received support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


Event Reminder: City Club Presentation – Gareth Jones and Nils Norman

We’re looking forward to welcoming Gareth Jones and Nils Norman back this Thursday 10th December at 7pm when they will be presenting the findings of their Arts Council funded research into the Utopian vision behind Milton Keynes and its relationship to contemporary art.

To find out more and book your free ticket click HERE.

There will also be an opportunity to view the latest plans for the MK Gallery expansion. We hope you can join us!



Gallery commissions Richard Deacon sculpture for Milton Keynes

Richard Deacon_roundabout research visit_Nov2015_#2_crop_rotated

The dust (or rain) has barely settled on MK’s latest public artworks, including David Batchelor’s beautiful colour clock Chromocochere near the gallery on Midsummer Boulevard, but we’re already preparing our next offsite art commission – a new sculpture from the celebrated UK artist Richard Deacon.

Richard is researching the possibility of making a piece for one of MK’s roundabouts. The idea stems from an unrealised MK Development Corporation proposal in the 1970s to install a sculpture on every roundabout in Milton Keynes, providing landmarks across the city.

As we’re only at early project development stages we can’t confirm when the Deacon commission will be ready, but one possibility is early 2017 to coincide with the launch of MK:50 (the city’s 50th anniversary year celebrations). Richard was in MK recently researching possible roundabouts with us; you can just see him at the edge of this picture we took was we measured and documented one possible location.

Richard Deacon (b.1949) is a former Turner Prize winner (1987) with a career spanning more than forty years. Tate Britain presented a solo survey show of his work in 2014. A sculptor who describes himself as a fabricator, Richard teaches, and writing also forms a part of his practice.  Richard is known for his innovative use of a broad range of materials, from contorted steel and sinuous bent wood to polycarbonates, leather, cloth and highly glazed ceramics. Working on both domestic and large scales, Richard combines organic forms with elements of engineering, and has vast experience of large-scale public projects, including permanent commissions in New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Europe and the USA. Let’s not be stupid (below) was Richard’s first commission for a large-scale, outdoor, permanent work in the UK. It can be seen on Warwick University campus.

Naturally we’re thrilled to be working with Richard, and we’ll keep you posted on the progress of this exciting public art commission for Milton Keynes.

Richard Deacon_installationView_WarwickUniversity

Richard Deacon, Let’s Not be Stupid (1991).  Photo: © Copyright Robin Stott.

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.’”