Founded by Pallant House Gallery, Chichester in 2006, Outside In provides a platform for artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation. The goal of the project is to create a fairer art world which rejects traditional values and institutional judgements about whose work can and should be displayed.
Step Up is Outside In’s training and professional development programme, currently offering two courses: “Workshop Leaders” and “Interpreting Collections”. Both courses provide artists with a unique opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and expertise in a gallery setting. Since its inception in 2007, Step Up has trained over 70 artists and has recently attracting funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a two-year development programme.
Participants have worked with the collections at Pallant House Gallery, choosing artists and themes to research and interpret. In a ten week course, they discover different types of research techniques (including primary and secondary sources, libraries, and how to produce a bibliography). They take a trip to another gallery, most recently to the V&A, where they study different forms of interpretation and speak with a staff member about how the interpretation materials are developed.
Each participant ends up with a final, usually very creative, output. Some of these have included poetry pamphlets to accompany exhibitions and wall texts that have been displayed alongside modern British masterpieces at Pallant House Gallery.
To accompany Outside In’s third national exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in 2012, five Step Up participants recorded spoken narratives of their research into the Gallery’s collections, under the guidance of audio-describer Bridget Crowley. The audio trail provided an engaging way to learn more about the works chosen and what led the group to choose the works in the first place.
One participant, Dolly Sen, produced and recorded poetic responses to a selection of works in Pallant House Gallery’s collection:
“Art is the poetry for the eyes, and I love how visual and written poetry can enhance each other. Both art and poetry seek to show the unseen in front of your eyes, and speak the unsaid to your ears. The artworks I saw whispered to me, and I sang their songs, through the filter of my strange heart and brain. Will people see what I see when they hear my words on the audio trail?”
To accompany “Intuitive Visions: Shifting the Margins’” an Outside In exhibition at Phoenix Brighton as part of HOUSE 2015, Step Up participant Jenny Lambourne produced a poetry pamphlet in response to the art work on display. She says: “Being invited to produce some text to accompany the exhibition has been a challenge and a privilege, one that has proved exciting and rewarding with each artist’s review.”
Participants have also produced workshop packs, which feature artists from our collections. Each contains a biography of the artist with information and tips on running a workshop based on the style of the chosen artist. These are utilised by Outside In’s team of creative workshop facilitators, and they are delivered at organisations across the UK.
Marc Steene, Founder of Outside In and Step Up explains his involvement: “Step Up was envisaged as a means of supporting artists to take more active roles in galleries and museums and to make wider use of the opportunities that these organisations offer. Outside In sought to expand engagement for its artists from a passive model of having their work exhibited in galleries, to a position where they were able to receive tailored training that would enable them to gain skills, confidence and employment, moving them from a position of dependency to empowerment. It is about creating new narratives and changing the way we interpret collections.”
Step Up is now applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund to roll out the programme across the country, with regional and national organisations taking on the outline of the scheme to train their artistic community to research into their own collections or facilitate creative workshops. Each host organisation will be able to influence the shape of the course, providing information on what outputs and outcomes they would like for participants.
‘Outside In: Step Up Showcase’ in the Studio at Pallant House Gallery from 29 September – 22 November will celebrate seven years of the training and development programme. Curated by a Step Up participant, it will tell the Step Up story from its inception. Have you read Simon Martin’s essay on the Pallant House Gallery approach to interpretation? It’s free to read on the a-n website, or buy The Interpretation Matters Handbook.
This is a poem by Jenny, written to accompany Martin Philimore’s work (see above image):
I am an amoeba
worlds within worlds
No structured form
beneath a tree
All of me
None of me
I wish I were an egg
Good news! Following last year’s period of planning and development, it’s a tremendous pleasure to announce that Interpretation Matters has been awarded project funding from Arts Council England!
This means that over the next two years, we can further develop and animate this website, work more closely with galleries and their audiences, and continue to facilitate discussion and debate about written interpretation produced by galleries.
In the summer months, you should see a presence for Interpretation Matters in many galleries across the country and on many more websites, as we reach out to gallery visitors and ask them to feedback on their textual experiences in the country’s galleries. This site will provide a neutral platform for that feedback and discussion to take place between galleries and their visitors. Do you have something to say about your gallery experience? Comment on any page on this site, or email email@example.com
With the help of artist Alistair Gentry, I will be working with project partners the De La Warr Pavilion and the Bluecoat to run a series of workshops with staff and visitors looking in detail at how their written interpretation is produced and received. There will also be an interactive text-exhibition at the Bluecoat, to further stimulate discussion with their visitors.
Around autumn, watch out for The Interpretation Matters Handbook, which will be published by Black Dog Publishing. Aimed at a general interested-in-art audience, it will be packed with contributions from a very interesting range of artists, curators, academics and, er, me. It will include audience voxpops, so if you are a gallery keen to facilitate this, or a gallery visitor and fancy getting your quote and picture in the book, please do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you work at a gallery and want to get involved? There are two ways to do this:
First, if you are interested in gathering honest and unselfconscious feedback from your visitors, please do contact me for a display poster, and the Interpretation Matters Call to Action for your website.
Second, if you want to review your own process of producing written interpretation, Alistair and I have developed a workshop programme that facilitates this in an effective and painfree way!
We’re also looking for destination marketing and local authority websites who would like to upload the Interpretation Matters Call to Action on their visual arts page.
Finally, we are always looking for more resources, whether in the form of guides, discussion of models, personal or organisational experience, or simply an interest and informed knowledge in this area. Again, if you would like to contribute, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com
I hope to hear from a lot of you over the coming weeks and months, and I thank you for your continued support and interest.
Interpretation Matters is all about the written material found in galleries - the text panels on the walls, providing context for the work on show, and the printed booklets that describe the works or overall programme. Usually "under-the-radar", the aim of this site is to highlight this important area of gallery practice.
Interpretation Matters is conceived and directed by arts writer Dany Louise.>