Sharing Shorelines is opening up exciting possibilities to bring new audiences into our galleries.
Since the first of October, we have been delivering a new series of activities called ‘gallery conversations’ within the Shorelines exhibition. These are 1.5 hour long art looking sessions aimed at people with dementia and their companions.
This Thursday we deliver our last session but it looks likely, due to demand, that more will take place in November.
I can honestly say that the experience has been for me, as the facilitator of these ‘conversations’, truly inspiring. Each week the conversations have been filled with laughter, new insights and some surprising responses to the artwork.
Having the committed support of the museum’s front of house team, the museum’s Marketing Officer, Ann, and Director, Mark, has meant we are able to close the galleries to the general public during the sessions, without any issue or mis communication. This has ensured participants can relax and engage with the artwork within a calm and supportive environment.
Having a dedicated team behind the planning and delivery of the sessions has also meant roles could be allocated, ensuring the conversations ran as smoothly as possible. My colleague, Rebecca, has been the first point of contact for all the bookings. This has meant participants have been able to talk through what to expect with someone close to the project, and enabling us to give them the necessary reassurance. She has also been the lead for coordinating our wonderful volunteers, who have been on hand during the sessions to observe and record for evaluation purposes, photograph the sessions and help with meeting and greeting the participants.
We have also been fortunate to have extra support from senior staff at Colten Care, who have taken turns to come along each week and get stuck in with moving chairs, joining in discussions with participants and have offered complimentary refreshments. Comments from them after the sessions highlighted their enjoyment in taking part and how it has opened up their perception of art engagement.It is becoming clear to me that these conversations offer opportunities for many more people, young and old, to take pleasure from and to benefit from active art looking. For this reason we will certainly be looking at ways to sustain and open up these sessions within our core public programming.
Here is some of the feedback we recorded after the conversations…
I just feel relaxed, like a little holiday in the middle of then day
It’s just nice to sit and look and talk about art. It’s not something you can do often
I really enjoyed that and I want to do it every week
But what’s the answer to that painting, I want to know whatthe answer is