Me and my research

Emma Spencer, Issue 118/05, p63, 01.05.2018
Reaching out to families
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) was founded in 1977 with learning at its core but in 2013 we decided to do more for families, so we developed a research programme called Learning Together and secured funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

First, we wanted to find out more about family visitors and build closer relationships with them. Second, we wanted to work with new audiences through partnerships with schools and support services.

We discovered that regular events were popular, that families liked working in the open air and that objects and resources helped to interpret exhibitions. After the first year, we rolled these ideas out to the public, while continuing to assess and adapt them.

An unexpected outcome has been a partnership with the early help team at Wakefield Council, which was working closely with families from a community with complex needs that was highlighted under the government’s Troubled Families agenda.

We welcomed them to YSP as part of Learning Together and scheduled an additional weekly club during the summer holidays. They spent time outside, discovered art through playful interactions and worked together.

During one visit, the families visited Tread Softly, an exhibition featuring work from the Arts Council Collection that explored challenging themes around growing up. The poet Jackie Kay took part in a workshop with the group, helping them create their own poetry and encouraging them to share stories.

I’m constantly surprised and humbled by our visitors. Seeing families making personal connections with challenging art and helping them realise that they have a voice has been a highlight.

Emma Spencer is the family learning coordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire