A good exhibition inspires a creative response. When adults take time to leave creative responses to an exhibit, that is worth celebrating. Here are two examples from The Lighthouse in Glasgow, Scotland and The National Craft Centre in Kilkenny, Ireland.
For most visitors the impact of a heritage visit is invisible and ephemeral. It leaves the building with the person, in their thoughts, conversation or camera. It may subsequently stimulate new artworks or writing, but the museum or gallery is unlikely to be aware of the link.
Sometimes, indeed increasingly often, there is space within an exhibition for visitors’ creative reflections and responses. (This is different from their feedback or critique of the exhibition, which is also important.) This is where visitors can create, at whatever level of skill, their own reflection of how the gallery inspires them.
These areas are often, by design, accident or custom, seen as the preserve of children. This is possibly particularly true in my UK culture where I know from experience, as a trainer and educator, that if I ask a group of seven year olds to draw, say, a place they love, they will all leap to the task. If I ask a group of 27 year olds to do the same, most of them will be hesitant, tense, resistant and apologetic.
But let’s not give up on the adults. Look what they can do.
I have already said that I thought OUT OF THE MARVELLOUS was a fantastic exhibition. The responses of other visitors both in the visitor book and in the Read, Reflect Respond space demonstrates that they agreed.
This seemed to work particularly well and I wondered why. I think the tone of the invitation was important both in the care with which the tidy table was presented and the informal yet very clear written instructions.
The gallery staff reinforced this relaxed yet serious approach.
I had been musing on the success of this for some time and yesterday came across another example of adults taking some time to respond to the thinking in an exhibition.
These have worked. They have created the permission, the relaxation and focus where creativity can happen. The responses in both cases are personal, sometimes quirky, witty or revealing. They are not flippant or simply intellectual. There is engagement here.
So why? What can we learn, steal and replicate from these examples? I am not sure but have a few thoughts.
1. Although very different these are both about ‘craft’, not ‘Art’. Maybe craft is more democratic, comprehensible and welcoming. It feels more familiar so we can have a go at it. Could be.
2. I think the tone of the suggestion/instruction is important . In both cases these combine informality with unlimited possibility.
3. It may not be irrelevant that the media in both cases are clearly transient and ephemeral – even though the creations may actually be around for some time.
4. Maybe, just possibly, social media is enabling us to be more relaxed about expressing how we feel about the world and our place in it, the wisps of ideas that pass through our minds and the glimmers of vision that light our way. I wonder. ?
Does anyone else have thoughts, ideas or examples of this?
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