Art on Tour celebrates its One-Year Anniversary by looking back over an unexpected yet eventful year…
Back in January 2020, an ambitious learning and engagement programme was launched at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Dubbed “Art on Tour”, this initiative aims to take more art to more people in more places throughout Swindon, including (but not limited to) schools, colleges community centres, arts venues and businesses. Art on Tour is about removing the walls of the Museum and accessing audiences on a broad and impactful scale. This is an exciting prospect indeed, since only a small portion of Swindon’s impressive art collection can be celebrated at one time in its current home.
Katie Ackrill (Engagement Officer) and Mags Parker (Learning Officer) hit the ground running, by forging partnerships with schools, colleges and venues throughout Swindon. Mags set to developing a schools outreach programme, complete with a pop-up gallery, workshops and student exhibitions. Meanwhile, Katie began planning exhibitions with the likes of the Wyvern Theatre, Central Library, Pebley Beach and Pinetrees Community Centre.
The foundations for a year of fun and creativity were set, and the big launch was imminent. So, when a worldwide health crisis was announced and the country was forced into lockdown, there was more than a little disappointment among the Art on Tour crew. After all, when the purpose of a project is to engage with as many people as you possibly can in one year, a global pandemic does throw a bit of a spanner in the works.
In a bid to make the best of a bad situation, a new phase of the project was born. ‘Art on Tour at Home’ still bears the same mission statement to bring “more art to more people in more places”, but the digital strategy aims to deliver valuable experiences to people within the comfort and safety of their own homes.
To quench the thirst of art enthusiasts everywhere, the Art Snaps Series was created, along with a blog with accompanying articles and Q&As with artists from the Collection (this one!). Meanwhile, from March-September, families were invited to join in with daily art challenges, a Summer Club and Families-in-Residence programme.
A Youth Programme also developed in new and exciting ways, with Young Artist in Residence, James Keel, and Young Photographer, Rose Russell (both from New College), becoming valuable ambassadors for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Exciting schools resources inspired by Swindon’s collection have also been developed, including a Learning Library and Art Discovery Boxes.
Whilst the majority of that work happened online (bar the Discovery Boxes, which are a fabulous physical resource!) we also launched the Art on Trees trail on October. Visitors to Coate Water, Lydiard Park, Stanton Park and Town Gardens were invited to find ten vibrant banners with artworks from the collection hidden among the greenery. We had such a lovely response to Art on Trees that it’s legacy now lives on in our schools education programme!
Just before Christmas, we also managed to collaborate with STEAM Museum on an exciting exhibition Through the Window, which combines modern paintings from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, and vintage GWR Posters from STEAM’s collection. At the time of writing STEAM is closed under government guidelines, but Through the Window is ready and waiting for your visit when the museum is able to open once again.
It’s safe to say that over the past year, there has been plenty to keep the Art on Tour team busy. Though they have yet to realise their original vision for the project, overcoming the challenges of the previous year has had its rewards. With more digital content available, knowledge of Swindon’s art collection has reached audiences across the other side of the globe, with one Art Snap enthusiast even commenting that they were listening from Australia!
Now at the end of its first year, Art on Tour looks forward to the next twelve months. Though initially intended as a year-long endeavour, Art on Tour’s funding has been carried into 2021, giving the project another year to flourish, and perhaps even realise its original vision.
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