Last month we wrapped up the Engaging Art Initiative – our pilot program trialling new models of audience engagement and support for regional galleries, helping them reach new audiences.
Supported by the Australia Council for the Arts the Engaging Art Initiative launched in early 2017, M&G NSW worked with four regional galleries across Australia to develop new public programming aligned with two of our touring exhibitions – Soft Core and Montages: The Full Cut 1999–2015. The Initiative worked directly with galleries and their unique communities to grow visitation, participation and engagement, as well as visual arts awareness and opportunities for artists.
Four venue galleries took part in the initiative and developed audience engagement strategies relevant to and in collaboration with their communities, they were, Wanneroo Library and Cultural Centre, WA; Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW; Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, NSW and Caboolture Regional Art Gallery, QLD. M&G NSW provided targeted financial support to these venues, along with access to audience development, PR and marketing experts and the curators and artists associated with each exhibition.
Some fantastic outcomes were achieved and venues that took part developed new and exciting audience engagement strategies, implementing and trialling these new models and enticed new audiences, especially young people, to develop confidence in the gallery space and relationships with contemporary artistic practice.
A wider audience visited the gallery, [the Engaging Art Initiative] achieved our goals, participants reported a deeper understanding of art and differing art forms, developed skills and knowledge, and had a sense of confidence, pride, self-efficacy and esteem…for those participants who hadn’t visited a gallery before, they felt more comfortable in the space and I feel confident they will visit again.
– Wanneroo Library and Cultural Centre, WA
Thanks to enthusiastic involvement by artists from both exhibitions including Tully Arnot, Simon Yates, Koji Ryu and Gary Hillberg as well as the Curator of Soft Core, Micheal Do, galleries were able to have artists on site and deliver their public programming bringing these exhibitions to life for audiences. Another key benefit was the opportunity for artists and curators to visit the regions and develop deeper relationships of mutual exchange with galleries and their audiences – bringing new insights to their understanding of how different audiences across Australia interact with their practice.
[Engaging Art] also provided an opportunity for two significant artists to collaborate not just on the workshops but to develop their own practices.
– Wagga Wagga Art Gallery
Some significant new connections were made between galleries and community groups and organisations, for example Wagga Wagga Art Gallery’s development of a new relationship with the Clontarf Academy in Coonamble, an organisation that mentors young Indigenous men and boys. The Academy took part in one of a series of workshops by Sort Core artists Tully Arnot and Simon Yates and the success of this interaction has led to discussions about ongoing engagement.
Early in the research phase of the initiative a need for written guides and resources on different aspects of audience engagement was identified. A suite of online resources and ‘how-to’ guides were developed to complement the targeted support for galleries and could be used by venues in thinking about and developing sustainable audience engagement.
Through detailed reporting, feedback and research much has been learnt during this pilot initiative, informing our new Engaging Art programs such as Cultural Mediation, Regional Cultural Mediation Workshops and Engaging Art Resources. We aim to continue and build upon this work and further develop capacity and skills, whilst delivering new programs and activities alongside our touring exhibition program. You can read more about our plans for Engaging Art going forward here.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.