In August we announced an exciting new partnership with Museums at Night (across the UK) and Scotland’s Festival of Museums, with a focus on encouraging more collaboration between museum/gallery venues and voluntary/community arts groups ahead of Voluntary Arts Week 2015.
With 2015 just around the corner, we talk to Rosie Clarke, Campaigns Officer at Culture24, about Museums at Night, voluntary arts and working together. Read on for inspiration, ideas and practical advice on how to initiate your own creative collaboration . . .
Rosie can you tell us a bit about Museums at Night and what you have planned for Museums at Night 2015?
Museums at Night is the annual festival coordinated by Culture24, which sees hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites throw their doors open after hours and welcome visitors old and new to do something different and discover the fantastic culture and heritage on their doorstep. Last year 700 events took place at 500 venues across the UK, ranging from talk and tours to historic dancing and food tasting, live performances, ghost hunts and sleepovers. In 2015, the festival will run from Thursday 14 – Saturday 16 May, and we warmly invite all arts and heritage organisations to start planning their events now!
It’s great to be working with Museums at Night, can you give our readers some background on why you chose to partner with Voluntary Arts Week?
In the past we’ve connected artists and authors with museums, and we’ve been delighted to see some terrific event partnerships springing up between local voluntary arts groups and cultural and heritage organisations. However, we really wanted to widen the opportunity to all arts and heritage organisations who’d like the chance to link up with a local creative or performing group to collaborate on an interesting joint event as part of the festival. Voluntary Arts Week is all about giving these groups the opportunity to showcase their practice to new audiences, so this seems like an ideal partnership!
What do you hope will happen as a result of this partnership?
We hope that lots of museums and galleries will take advantage of this opportunity to discover which voluntary arts organisations exist in their local area, reach out to them, and find a way of collaborating on a Museums at Night event. This may mean giving a community choir space to perform, or inviting a group of guerrilla knitters to “yarnbomb” their gardens, or collaborating with artists or creative writers to offer a hands-on workshop inspired by their venue or collections … or something else we haven’t thought of before!
This could also lead to longer-term collaborations and partnership working within communities, helping museums and galleries to broaden their offer and connect with new audiences through creative art forms.
Can you share some examples of Museums at Night events that have come together as a result of cultural venues and arts groups working together?
There have been lots of these collaborations! A few highlights include:
Chippenham Museum working with Rag & Bone Arts to create a magical family torchlit tour where the museum’s mannequins came to life
The Infirmary in Worcester inviting local drama students to devise interpretative performances aimed at making their stories and collections relevant to young people
The Scarborough Museums team collaborating with the Crescent Arts visual arts collective to programme an exciting mixture of creative interventions across two venues, including poetry, an art book exchange, and an art-trivia boxing match (yes, really – click through to see the teams of Realists versus Conceptualists in costume ready to slug it out!)
Gladstone Pottery Museum programmed spit poetry and invited an artist to capture his impressions of the night by painting live throughout the evening – and premiered new music for trombones inspired by and performed inside their atmospheric bottle ovens
One of the most memorable events ever took place at London’s Hunterian Museum, which worked together with a local Stitch’n’Bitch group on a surgery-themed event where visitors could try their hand at spinning, weaving, knitting … and surgical suturing to stitch up a wound on a fake arm.
What did the venues and the arts groups involved get out of being part of these collaborative events?
In all these cases, the venues got the chance to broaden their offer to visitors, and enjoyed discovering new ideas and ways of presenting their spaces and collections. The arts groups taking part appreciated the challenge of working in a new type of space, and took the opportunity to create new work, and to bring their artforms to new audiences.
What would be your dream cultural venue/arts group collaboration?
I’d like to see a group of theatrical designers and prop-makers transform a historic house into Hogwarts. I’d like to see immersive theatrical experience companies like Punchdrunk and dreamthinkspeak develop new productions anywhere, but particularly linking between and inside heritage sites. I’d like creative writing and sketching workshops surrounded by taxidermy and sculpture.
I’m not embarrassed to say I enjoy dance movies, and I’d love to create something like this magical scene from Step Up 4: Miami Heat, where a community dance group bring an art gallery’s exhibits to life.
Feeling inspired to get creative and collaborate? Great! We’re here to help . . .
Voluntary Arts Week, Museums at Night and Festival of Museums have created a number of downloadable Toolkits to help cultural venues and voluntary arts groups, like you, get your collaborative event off the ground in May 2015. Each Toolkit includes practical advice, case studies, useful links and contact details for further support –
Top Tips – working with cultural venues, practical advice for voluntary/community arts groups on how to engage with cultural venues and pitch your event ideas.
Museums at Night – working with voluntary arts groups, practical advice for cultural venues on how to engage with voluntary/community arts groups and involve them in your events.
Festival of Museums – working with voluntary arts groups, practical advice for cultural venues, based in Scotland, on how to engage with voluntary/community arts groups and involve them in your events.
We look forward to hearing about your event and listing your activities as part of Voluntary Arts Week 2015! If you have any questions or would like to get in touch to discuss an event idea, please contact Cassandra on firstname.lastname@example.org