Artspace on the Move: Sorry We’re Closed

Artist Lucy Courtney-Clegg reveals how she’s been helping to create pop-up environments in
which people can experience art outside the gallery space



I joined Leeds Art Gallery’s education office during the gallery’s closure for roof repairs. For me, it was perfect timing. Outside of the gallery I work as an artist with a group called ‘Reet So’ and we specialise in interrupting public spaces with art. I was excited to get my teeth stuck into the placement and find ways for the Art Gallery’s learning programme to pop-up in city venues and shake-up experiences of art in schools.

Bringing the gallery to the people!
There’s a few of us at the moment in the education team: a student intern, a visitor assistant and myself working collaboratively as a ‘Think Tank’ to dream up new ideas for bringing the ideas of a gallery and its artworks to the people of Leeds. The gallery offers a place where you can see the world through the eyes of artists and it can make you think differently and reflect on our own experience.

The challenge is we don’t currently have an art gallery and it is impossible to recreate those wondrous high ceilings, spaces and atmosphere that the gallery brings to the experience of exploring art. But we can create pop-up experiences of art that interrupts the way we think about our everyday, lives that go beyond formal learning and play with the familiarity of a space.

Take ‘Situationism,’ a mid-20th century movement that created alternative life experiences through the construction of situations. They wanted to challenge the categorisation of art and culture as separate activities and to transform them into part of everyday life. These thoughts reminded me of something I experienced the other day across the road from the gallery; ‘The Weather Café’, “a unique environment in which to reflect, be still and drink tea” created by artist David Shearing.  With its own microclimate, animated by wind, sound and rain, it featured the voices of the people of Leeds and provided a snapshot of the current mood of the city.

Artspace on the Move
So what does this have to do with Leeds Art Gallery? Currently we are using Artspace, which previously had a permanent space in the gallery, where families engaged with artworks from the collection. We are now mobile, creating situations for experiencing art in public spaces such as Trinity Kitchen, in Leeds city centre, which is populated with street food stalls.

‘Artspace: On the Move’ was inspired by artist Martino Gamper and invited families to re-imagine broken objects from the centre’s shops into new artworks, questioning the role of consumerism in a consumerist location. It became a social space unifying families, in the middle of their shopping experience, through art.

The Weather Cafe
The following pop-up event, in the gallery’s ‘White Room’, was inspired by David Shearing’s The Weather Café. We invited families to come to our open space, conjure memories, and explore the weather and its relationship to moods. It was a grassy, messy space, not a space often imagined when you say the word ‘gallery’. But to me that is what Artspace is all about; playing, thinking, talking, being and experiencing art in ways that interrupts your experience of everyday life.

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