Maeve Butler writes about Void Gallery’s Education Programme – Part 1 – The History

The Void Engage programme was set up in 2014. Its remit was to “welcome all sections of the community into the gallery…to place participation, enjoyment and learning at the heart of Void, making contemporary visual art accessible to visits of all ages, working with communities from every area. The fundamental aim with this inclusive learning programme is to engage a diversity of audiences by delivering events that resonate with a wide range of individuals and groups, in a meaningful and enjoyable way’.

Drawing workshops with Stephanie Gaumond

From 2014 to 2018, the Engage programme welcomed over 5,500 people from our community to experience a wide range of activities including workshops for all ages, a schools programme, talks and lectures, director’s tours and film screenings. It engaged with a wide variety of community partners, growing a network of partners that we continue to work with.

Alan Phelan, echoes are always more muted, 2020, photo by Tansy Cowley, courtesy of Void Gallery

Since taking over the role in 2018, I have continued to build on this solid foundation. My aim is to create a robust, consistent and sustainable learning and public programme and to create a high quality, inclusive programme, co-produced with and for our community.

For each exhibition, we programme a Director’s tour, talks and lectures with invited artists and speakers who expand on the ideas in the exhibition; family and community workshops and resources for schools and colleges. In particular, I am keen to embed the arts from as young an age as possible.

Funding secured from various trusts, foundations and community partners, enabled us to introduce programmes including Void Tots, a monthly sensory art session for 1- 4 year olds designed by artist Sinead Crumlish, increase the number of family workshops, run a summer art bootcamp and implement the Creative Ageing programme in 2019. These programmes proved popular, with each session fully booked, due to the high quality activities planned by our cohort of artist facilitators.

The onset of the pandemic saw the gallery closed, so onsite workshops and events ceased and, like many galleries, we quickly moved into the virtual realm, bringing digital learning initiatives, designed by our artist facilitators Sinead Crumlish, Karen Cassidy, Stephanie Gaumond, Zoe McSparron and Leanne McLaughlin online from April 2020.

We also created art packs for those who may not have easy access to the internet or who just want to take a break from being online. These are sent out to children, schools and older citizens, through our Creative Ageing programme.

Through Void Offsites and with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we invited artists both North and South of the border to propose an offsite project involving the community, creating sculptural interventions as part of the collaboration. This allowed us to engage with the community during the pandemic, with Alan Phelan conceiving a crowd-sourced sculpture, where participants were provided with materials to create a petal in isolation, then assembled to create the final sculpture.

part two of this interview is here

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.