Head of Learning Jennie explains how to create inspirational learning events through art…

img_6146At Lakeland Arts we have a team brimming with ideas, enthusiasm who are willing to try new things to engage new visitors. When it comes to developing learning activity for families and schools, we trial ideas, we carry out research to see what other galleries are doing. We even find inspiration on Pinterest!

We want children and young people to engage in creative experiences in galleries. That’s really important to us because we deliver activity that can’t be replicated elsewhere – not in a classroom or soft play centre or IKEA showroom.

The learning team at Lakeland Arts has been involved with developing the George Shaw: My Back to Nature exhibition. Shaw was nominated for the Turner Art Prize in 2011, so we got the idea to stage an art prize for young artists in Cumbria between the ages of 16 – 22. We named it the Romney Art Prize after George Romney, the famous portrait painter who lived in Kendal. We want young artists to get inspired by the themes that George Shaw explores in his paintings and the art in our collection. Entries close on 30 April 2017 and the winner gets their work hung at Abbot Hall. That’s a pretty amazing opportunity for a budding young artist to highlight on an application to art school or college.

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More and more, we incorporate digital and creative media activity in the learning programme. Digital workshops allow visitors to experience art in new ways, to learn new skills and to share their experiences with others on social media. The latter helps us promote our work and reach more people.

We identify trends in new media that put a twist on the artwork. Our Gif Gallery workshops at Abbot Hall (18-25 February) are inspired by video games and social media trends. The characters in our paintings have already mastered the Mannequin Challenge – they are static but they all have a story to tell. We want visitors to get inspired by the paintings and use digital technology to bring the characters to life; dancing or playing air guitar.

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Lights Fantastic! at Blackwell runs alongside the Light Within exhibition (18-25 February Easter holidays and May half-term). The exhibition is a collaboration between a digital sound artist called Paul Miller, who maps digital projections onto delicate glass sculpture by his collaborator, Greit Beyaert. High tech, right? Linked to this stunning exhibition, we have transforming our learning space into a giant magic lantern for families to experiment with light, colour and reflection. Families are invited to be creative and express themselves in ways that will radiate around the space.

As well as delivering activity that is deliberately site specific and encourages creativity, we encourage families to learn together. We create experiences where people feel safe, can express themselves, form memories, and at the end of the day, have fun together.

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Our schools programme is also linked to collections and exhibitions. To make school sessions relevant, we work directly with teachers so that the content is relevant to them and the National Curriculum. This is a new approach for us but we have found it hugely beneficial and liberating to collaborate with schools. It means we develop relationships with teachers and schools and means we are meeting demand from pupil learning needs. In June we are piloting two new initiatives. The first is a week of special events for primary schools exploring portraiture and landscape at Abbot Hall linked to our significant collection of portraiture and the Julian Cooper exhibition. The second is a digital art project at Blackwell where secondary pupils will work directly with Paul Millar and Greit Beyaert to create digital art that will be projected on the façade of Blackwell on 17 June 2017.

Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”

john-constable-cenotaph-to-the-memory-of-sir-joshua-reynolds-1833-6-n-1272-00-000029-a6We’re absolutely thrilled that as part of George Shaw’s exhibition, My Back to Nature currently on view at Abbot Hall until 11 March, we are also providing a temporary home to a Constable!

The National Gallery generously lent us three paintings that inspired George during his residency with the Gallery – one of them being Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”.

This painting depicts the memorial to Sir Joshua Reynolds erected by Sir George Beaumont in the grounds of his home at Coleorton, Leicestershire; the first stone was laid on 30 October 1812. The cenotaph has inscribed on it some lines of poetry by Wordsworth, specially composed in 1811. Reynolds’ name is legible on the cenotaph; busts of Raphael and Michelangelo are at either side.

Constable visited Coleorton and remarked on the cenotaph in October/November, 1823. He executed a pencil drawing of it, and this is presumed to have formed the general basis for the painting although the two are not close in detail.

The Constable will be on display  until 11 March alongside two other works by Piero del Pollaiuolo and Nicolas Poussin. Don’t miss it!

Curator Kerri explains why ‘Walking Tours’ are a wonderful way to get closer to art

george-shaw-blog“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

Working with artists is an exciting opportunity for any arts organisation. It’s an opportunity to learn about their working practice and connect more with their work. You get to find out about their time in the studio, some of the frustrations, moments of insecurity, and the moments of inspiration and joy.

This year at Abbot Hall we are lucky enough to be working with two artists. The first, George Shaw, has an exhibition with us that’s open until Saturday 11 March. The second is Julian Cooper, whose exhibition, celebrating his seventieth year, opens on Friday 7 April.

Through working with artists, curators are able gain an insight into a working practice and a rational that may not be seen by simply looking at an artwork. By going to an artist’s studio, by helping them shape an exhibition, they can create a bond with the artist and gain a deeper understanding of their work.

This week we are fortunate enough to welcome Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, who will be giving two talks at Abbot Hall. George Shaw describes Colin as his “handler”, who guided him through the duration of his two-and-a-half-year residency at the National Gallery. When George panicked six months in, realising that he’d lost his way under the pressure, Colin was there to reassure him it had happened to those who had gone before him, including Paula Rego and Peter Blake.

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Colin worked closely with George, as his main point of contact during his residency, and to help shape the outcome – the exhibition George Shaw: My back to nature, which is now at Abbot Hall, and the subsequent exhibition catalogue.

Lost and Found: Into the woods with George Shaw is a tour by Colin of George’s exhibition at Abbot Hall. It will shed light on the relationship between artist and curator, the way in which George responded to the National Gallery’s collection and the work he produced. It promises to be an interesting tour, full of personal insights and anecdotes.

Colin will also be giving a breakfast talk, Carry on Constable: Three National Gallery masterpieces reinterpreted, which will look at the three works on loan to Abbot Hall from the National Gallery. These works, by Piero del Pollaiuolo, Nicholas Poussin and John Constable, influenced and inspired George. Colin will discuss how George tackled the pressure of taking on the Masters, and how he found new meaning in the National Gallery’s collection to create new and poignant work.

These talks will open up George’s works, taking them from the walls and transporting them back to the studio at the National Gallery, revisiting the process of their creation and exploring the works that inspired their creation through Colin’s personal experience with George.

To book for either or both of these tours, please call 01539 722464.

 

 

Shop ’til You Drop

Shop ’til You Drop has seen us working with Year 10 GSCE Graphic Products students. The students were presented with a live brief, which asks them to research and produce a product which can be sold in the Museum’s shop, using Windermere Jetty as their client.  Following an introduction to the Museum, students were able to talk through the brief for the project, including:

  • the target audience, children aged 6-9 years old
  • where the product will be sold, in the Windermere Jetty shop
  • product price, pocket money priced items
  • the materials required to make the product

Following an introduction and time to do some initial research, the students came to Windermere Jetty for a site visit.

Each student has researched what other museums sell in their shops, generated ideas of what they would like to develop and have chosen two products to focus their attention on. You can see examples of the group’s work below.

The project is now coming to a close as we approach the Christmas holidays. The group has  shown a high level engagement with the project and the school is planning on running the project as part of the next course starting in September 2017.

A Great Yarn

Annie Garnett: Spinning the Colours of Lakeland is still on at Blackwell, make sure you visit before this beautiful show closes.

 

Annie Garnett was as colourful as the textiles that she produced at her Spinnery in Bowness on Windermere. Born in 1864 she was not sent to school along with her brothers but still formed a passion for painting, colour and design. When her father made the acquaintance of John Ruskin she became inspired by his philosophies and decided that she would like to start creating beautiful textiles using traditional methods.

The exhibition, which is now half-way through its run, looks at the life of Annie Garnett and the textiles that she produced. Spinning the Colours of Lakeland also looks at the inspiration that Annie took from nature, both from the Lakeland landscape and from her three acre garden.

Annie Garnett’s textiles are often vibrant and bright, but we have been able to bring more colour to her story in this exhibition through the discovery of some very rare Autochrome Lumiere plates. This early form of photography used coloured starch grains to produce positive colour images which would have been viewed by holding them up to the light. Annie Garnett used this expensive process to capture the colours in her garden that meant so much to her. The Autochromes, which can be seen in the exhibition, allow us to see the colours that Annie Garnett saw, and the petals that she would send direct to her dyers to match.

Don’t miss this show, which runs until 29th January and is a great chance to find out more about one of Lakeland most colourful characters, there are also lunch and Garnett tour packages available in December. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to hear first about upcoming shows and exhibitions.

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Sitting Pretty – conserving SL Branksome’s seat cushions

The Windermere Jetty curatorial team and volunteers have been hard at work behind the scenes making sure that the small object collection is ready for its new home in the displays of the Windermere Jetty Museum in 2017. Our focus at the moment is on getting the objects cleaned – but not too clean! One of the challenges with cleaning items in any museum collection is to find a balance between removing recent and potentially damaging dirt while keeping evidence of its historic use. To do this we have asked several professional conservators to give us advice on their field of expertise, and back in July 2015 we were visited by Yvette Fletcher from the Leather Conservation Centre. Yvette spent a great couple of days with our volunteers, teaching everyone about how leather was made and running a practical conservation cleaning workshop. Since then our team has been tackling leather with a lot of care and a lot more confidence.

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The Windermere Jetty team learning about  leather damage with Yvette Fletcher

Every so often you find an object that needs to go for professional conservation and Yvette and her team at the Leather Conservation Centre have also been working hard to restore the original leather covered seat cushions from SL Branksome. Part of the Windermere Jetty collection, Branksome was built in 1896 by Brockbanks of Windermere and was the height of luxury. Unfortunately her cushions, seen in place in the photograph below, were showing the wear and tear of being over a hundred years old.

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The leather on the cushions was in poor condition, and there were previous patched repairs, buttons and a pink textile lining which were causing further damage to the original leather. The cushion had also burst open, with broken stitching in some places and splits in other parts.

Inside the cushion was also showing signs of wear as the textile covering the original horsehair padding had deteriorated and was splitting in a number of places. A decision was made to make new covers and fit them over the original damaged ones. This method of conserving the inner cushions was chosen because it preserves all the existing original materials and techniques.

Yvette and her team used the same methods that would have been employed originally. They used a fine 100% unbleached cotton textile for the tops and bottoms, with a thicker more closely woven 100% unbleached cotton for the sides to give more definition.

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All the pieces of the new cover were sewn together, leaving an opening at one end to insert the original cushion

The new cover needed to larger than you might think. The extra space is taken up when the cover is tufted and the mattress stitched. The stiches from tufting hold everything together and stop the stuffing inside from moving.

The conserved cushion is now ready to be placed back inside the leather covers once these have been conserved. Yvette will be giving us more updates on the conservation of the Branksome cushions, so do keep checking back for news.

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Lakeland Arts 2016 and beyond…

Busy times are ahead for Lakeland Arts in Cumbria, one of the leading Arts and Heritage Organisations in the North West. Originally Founded in 1957, it has since developed a hugely successful artistic programme, which repeatedly brings the best contemporary and historical artists to the area. On an annual basis, thousands of visitors come to indulge themselves in visual feasts of consistently high quality exhibitions, held at inspiring settings throughout the Lake District and just outside. Yet this is only part of the story. For over the next few years, there are plans to raise the stakes even higher, with an ambitious strategy to significantly grow a diverse selection of attractions. Notwithstanding the realisation of an ambitious new Windermere Jetty project or the completion of new period rooms at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness.

Since opening Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 1962, the former Georgian town house has gained a national and international reputation for the excellence of its collections and programming. A wide-ranging collection boasts something for everyone, from iconic works such as the huge 16th Century triptych portrait of Lady Anne Clifford, to Cumbrian born George Romney’s finest society portraits from the 18th Century. Hung in elegant period rooms these magnificent works rub shoulders with a fine set of 18th & 19th Century watercolours from the likes of J.M.W. Turner, John Constable and Edward Lear. Highlights of a strong modern and contemporary collection include paintings by the St. Ives School, Graham Sutherland, L. S. Lowry and Ivon Hitchens, with three-dimensional pieces by Barbara Hepworth and Jean Arp. You can also find an important selection of works by German refugee Kurt Schwitters, who spent the last few years of his life in the Lake District, after fleeing to England in 1940. From its early days, Abbot Hall has regularly brought some of the most celebrated names in the art world to Cumbria, from: Bridget Riley, Lucien Freud and Patrick Caulfield to name only a few. The current highly acclaimed exhibition ‘Canaletto: Celebrating Britain’ is on the last leg of a hugely successful tour, which has already taken in the Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire and Holburne Museum in Bath. It offers a Northwest audience the unique chance to see a large grouping of drawings and paintings by the illustrious 18th century Italian artist. The works have been brought together from major collections including: the Royal Collection, British Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery, along with a number of private lenders.

Lakeland Arts have also developed an extensive learning and activities programme of events, lectures, workshops, films and concerts across all of their sites. Giving invaluable access to their collections for families, schools, colleges and community groups. All galleries are free for children up to the age of sixteen, and young people receive further support with a variety of cross-curricula opportunities, predominantly in Art and Design and History. Engaging the local community is also another top priority. A series of projects aimed at meeting the needs and interests of individual groups include a programme entitled, Enriched by Moments, which delivers activities and events designed to engage people living with dementia along with their carers. These informal sessions often stimulate lively discussion, generating creative ideas and enhancing feelings of well-being. They have also established partnerships with organisations such as: Young Cumbria, the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust, Riverview Day Centre in Kendal and residents and staff at the Leonard Cheshire Home at Holehird, Windermere.

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From March this year, Abbot Hall will become one of only three host venues selected to display a Masterpiece from the National Gallery Collection. Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 will arrive during a UK tour from January to July 2016. This late contemplative self-portrait by one of the world’s most revered artists represents another major coup for the gallery. Helen Watson, Director of Exhibitions and Collections is obviously thrilled, “We are excited about bringing one of the greatest works of art in the UK to Kendal. Visitors will have a unique opportunity to spend time with this magnificent painting, study it in detail and learn about Rembrandt and his self-portraits.” Keeping a close eye on the Dutch master will be Lady Anne Clifford’s barn door-sized triptych from the same period, which is to be shown in an adjacent gallery. Looking forward to the pair meeting one another, Anne-Marie Quinn, Learning and Engagement Officer at Abbot Hall reveals, “We have designed a programme of talks and activities to encourage all our visitors to spend time with Rembrandt and Lady Anne. They are remarkable characters in their own right and both have used portraiture in very different ways to describe moments throughout their lives. Lady Anne’s portraits create a narrative about her status and power, while Rembrandt’s self-portrait is the intense almost spiritual scrutiny of an older man, reflecting on his image, and perhaps his whole life.

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Housed nearby in the old coach house and stable block at Abbot Hall, The Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry displays a significant and widespread collection relating to the social and industrial history of the Lake District and Kendal. This year visitors will be treated to a new layout with more interactive displays. Exhibits not to miss include the original sketches, drawings, photographs, mementoes and a pair of slippers once belonging to Arthur Ransome, author of the enduring children’s classic, Swallows and Amazons. Whilst there are further opportunities to step back in time with the Victorian photographs of the Lake District by Joseph Hardman, or by tracing the local development of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

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When architect MH Baillie Scott completed Blackwell in 1901, he built a beautiful holiday home overlooking Windermere for his client, Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy industrialist. Exactly one hundred years later, Lakeland Arts opened the house to the public in 2001, after stepping in to save it from an uncertain future. Initially securing a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a restoration project, this masterpiece of twentieth-century design now continues to present a rare opportunity for visitors to experience a breath-taking example of the Arts & Crafts Movement today. At the moment, plans to bring the Blackwell Project: An Arts and Crafts Story are close to fruition. This two-year project will eventually introduce new Arts and Crafts furnishings, objects and textiles to further enhance the period rooms, whilst telling the stories of some of the people who lived and worked at Blackwell.

Unquestionably, one of the most exciting future additions for the Lakeland Arts portfolio is the realisation of the new Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories. Which replaces the former Windermere Steamboat Museum that opened in 1977. Thanks again to significant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, an eighteen month build and fit-out programme started in a special Ground-breaking ceremony on November 20th 2015. Once opened, the new Museum will add a further dimension to Cumbria’s rich heritage and cultural offer. Windermere’s lakeshore history will come alive as it is combined with displays of steam launches, motorboats, yachts and other vessels. A new learning centre is a key feature of the design, whilst a new café will provide stunning views over the length of Windermere. Martin Ainscough, Chairman of Lakeland Arts is clearly delighted; “This is a major step towards opening the Museum to the public so that everyone can enjoy seeing the historic boats on display in the exhibition galleries and on the lake”. Local MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale (and leader of the Liberal Democrats) Tim Farron, also welcomes the latest addition to the shoreline, stating; “I cannot wait for the new building to open so I can have a look at Lakeland Arts’ fantastic collection of historic boats. I am grateful for the support the Heritage Lottery Fund continues to give to Cumbria”.

With the completion of the Windermere Jetty project expected in 2017, Lakeland Arts will grow significantly and boast one of the most far-reaching and diverse set of attractions. Incorporating a wide variety of collections with the potential to rival anywhere else in the UK. For nearly sixty years, they have cultivated an enviable reputation for exhibiting art of the highest quality. This has been achieved alongside the creation of inspiring spaces for the understanding and enjoyment of artists, the collections and buildings. Whilst the exhibition programme continues to celebrate artistic endeavour and imagination, it also engages and challenges audiences to fully experience all forms of art.

David Banning
Visitor Experience Coordinator, Lakeland Arts