The British Museum, London - Museums Association

The British Museum, London

Large-scale collaborative art installations
Harvinder Bahra
The Community Partnerships Team at the British Museum in London has always strived to work with local artists as a way of engaging local audiences. This can encourage people to explore the collections more deeply and discover links between themselves and the world.

The team particularly works to supports audiences who face difficulties visiting, . This can involve older adults groups, health and social care charities to neighbourhood centres.

Coming into contact with a professional artist is such an inspiring, creative and memorable experience, but can be a rare occurrence for many local people.

Special exhibitions in particular inspire collaborative projects between the museum, artists and community partners, where the creative outcome is placed centre stage.

The museum has been working in partnership with the Mary Ward Centre, a local adult education centre in Camden, and its staff of tutors and artists since 2009 to deliver a number of large scale creative projects, linked to the changing special exhibitions.

The team of artists from the Mary Ward Centre use the exhibition theme to develop an idea. The concept is then broken down into smaller parts for groups to work on separately, before being brought together and assembled at the museum to create a truly stunning work of art.

These projects often involve more than 150 members of the community and 10 artists, and take place in more than 15 locations in Camden and Islington.

All the community partners will work towards the same creative brief – to contribute to a large three-dimensional art installation, inspired by the themes of the special exhibition. The community centres will often focus on one element of the installation, or work in focus with a particular material or art technique with the artist.

The participants need to trust the vision of the artists. They won’t know what the final art installation looks like until all the separate elements are brought together and installed in the Great Court at the British Museum.

These large-scale collaborations always result in an impressive, inspiring and detailed art installation. It is seen by the thousands of people who visit the museum every day, including those who made the work and come with their friends and family and take great pride in what they have done.

The project places artists and members of the community at the centre of the British Museum.

Harvinder Bahra is a community partnerships coordinator (exhibitions) at the British Museum

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