Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange Arts Council Collection National Partnership
In 2019 following a highly competitive process, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange was selected to join the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme, and to deliver nine innovative exhibition projects drawing on the Arts Council Collection, an exceptional national resource of more than 8,000 contemporary artworks.
Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange’s ambition was to address a fundamental challenge that galleries face when developing programmes that aim to be relevant to the widest possible audience. Curators, and those with control over the types of shows that are delivered in public galleries, tend to be from very similar backgrounds, are educated in the same way, and have common political beliefs, values and tastes. Unsurprisingly, the audiences their shows attract tend to reflect those same narrow perspectives.
To address this, the gallery chose to hand over control of its programme to people in their immediate communities, that are rarely, if ever, given a platform to share their world view. The gallery wanted to see if shows curated in this way would appeal to broader audiences than they might otherwise attract.
The resulting programme has been transformational, leading to new relationships with individuals, charities, schools and other community partners, and projects of exceptional quality have been delivered. The gallery has worked with Mount’s Bay Academy, Penzance; Newlyn School, Newlyn; people referred to the gallery through social prescribing programmes; the Intercom Trust and LGBTQIA+ young people from across Cornwall; WILD Young Parents and Black Voices Cornwall.
Over the past three years these partners have supported the gallery in flexing and responding to the urgent needs of those in their community, brought about as a result of the Covid pandemic. They have helped the gallery to redefine their role in this place, and deliver, in some cases, life-changing experiences for partners. Their achievements will shape the work of the gallery for years to come.