States and Spaces workshop at MK Gallery. Image copyright Project Art Works.

States and Spaces workshop at MK Gallery. Image copyright Project Art Works.

MK Gallery is extending its role in improving access to culture. The Gallery has been successful in securing funding to support a new inclusive programme targeting young people with complex needs and their families. The programme is generously supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and MK Community Foundation. Inclusive Practice in the Arts will develop the expertise, confidence and capacity of the MK Gallery team and Associate Artists to deliver a stimulating, challenging and enjoyable programme of art explorations and activities, engaging families with a child or children with physical or learning disability.

Inclusive Practice in the Arts is being developed in recognition of the unique needs of, and strains experienced by, families with a child or children with complex needs. The three-year programme builds upon MK Gallery's expertise in 'whole family' programming and the Gallery's long-term partnership with Hastings-based organisation, Project Art Works, working to create meaningful arts engagement with individuals with profound disabilities.

From spring 2018, the programme will deliver weekly workshops to enable families to work directly with an artist with specialist training in complex needs, allowing family members to enjoy spending time together in an environment which is creative, accessible, fun and understanding of everyone’s needs.

MK Gallery is currently undergoing a major expansion which is due for completion during the second year of the Inclusive Practice in the Arts programme. The main gallery building will reopen in early 2019 with state-of-the-art access facilities funded by MK Community Foundation and generous individuals. The expanded MK Gallery will include access routes of a generous width, accessible signage, a hearing loop, portable seating and a Changing Places toilet - a facility for those whose needs mean they are unable to use a standard accessible toilet. These provisions will hugely enhance the experience of visiting MK Gallery and the Changing Places toilet will open up the venue to an entirely new audience that is currently unable to make extended visits to the Gallery.

MK Gallery Director Anthony Spira, speaking about the new programme said: ‘Having the support of Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Milton Keynes Community Foundation to deliver this transformative programme is fantastic. Their support enables us to bring in specialist expertise and train artists and other staff to provide a positive experience of the arts for absolutely everyone regardless of their level of need. For families with a family member with complex needs, the opportunity to enjoy high quality creative activities together is very rare, which makes the new Inclusive Practice in the Arts programme all the more important. We are delighted to be delivering this crucial work as part of our commitment to providing the very best arts experiences for all.’

Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive of Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said ‘At Paul Hamlyn Foundation, because we see the difference it makes to people’s lives, we believe access to the arts is a right, not a privilege, and we are interested in opening up opportunities to as wide and diverse a group of people as possible. We recognise that disabled people, and especially those with complex needs, often face barriers to taking part in arts activities and that is why we are backing MK Gallery’s ‘Inclusive Practice in the Arts’ programme. The ‘whole family’ approach should allow the positive impact of creativity to be experienced much more widely, and we are delighted to see it in our portfolio of grants supporting best practice and innovation in the arts.’

Ian Revell, CEO of the Milton Keynes Community Foundation said ‘MK Community Foundation is proud to partner with MK Gallery by co-funding this ambitious and innovative project with Paul Hamlyn Foundation. This project is designed for young people with complex needs and their families to engage with a high-quality arts programme. MK Gallery has a long and impressive track record of delivering quality arts projects and we have every expectation that they will produce a first rate programme that will benefit many local families and leave a positive impact on the cultural life of Milton Keynes.’}

MK Gallery will recruit a Curator of Inclusion to support the delivery of Inclusive Practice in the Arts. The Curator of Inclusion will work alongside MK Gallery’s award-winning learning team.