Partnership project aims to engage families with contemporary art

Hands-on exhibitions feature sound machines and inflatable organisms
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Rebecca Atkinson
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Four venues in the north of England have joined forces to create a series of hands-on, sensory contemporary art exhibitions aimed at families.

The Generation partnership received £150,000 from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme to commission four exhibitions over three years that will run at each venue - the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum and Durham Art Gallery, Berwick Gymnasium Gallery, Towneley Hall in Burnley and Central Art Gallery in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

Lucy Jenkins, the curator of the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery, said: “We identified that we weren’t maximising the family audience that we felt we could draw to our venues, and so we wanted to create exhibitions that showed contemporary art but were designed in a way that allowed people to engage very directly through their senses.”

Following an open call to artists, Generation has commissioned two exhibitions – Generation Air and Generation Noise.

The latter, which opened at the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery at the weekend, was created by Owl Project, a group of artists who fuse sculpture and sound art. Visitors are invited to create shapes that are turned into sound waves when placed on specially-designed wooden machines.



The exhibition resulted in a significant increase in family visitors when it was at Central Art Gallery.

Jenkins said that Generation Air, which was exhibited in Durham in October to January and featured giant inflatable organisms created by artist group Spacecadets, attracted 1,600 people in the half-term week – the museum's second highest figure for that period.

“We will be carrying out evaluation from the project, looking at how we communicate and market what’s on as well as the design of the exhibitions themselves,” she added. “We want to share some of our learning and think more about how we can engage with family audiences going forward.”

Generation is looking to commission two further exhibitions, which will run from October to September 2016. 



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