The only way a visit to the museum could be improved is if there was more food…..apparently.
Exhibitions aren’t things to just be looked at at Sandwell Museums
At Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery we have just said goodbye to ‘A journey through colours’ – celebrating 30 years of creativity’ the fantastically vibrant Asian art and crafts exhibition by local artist Ranbir Kaur. We even extended the exhibition for several weeks until 13th July and it has been really popular with visitors who have commented on the variety of arts and crafts and the fantastic colours. Ranbir has had a fascinating life having lived and worked in Africa, India and the UK creating intricate and colourful pieces of art inspired by the Indian sub-continent.
She is particularly known for her Rangoli work – Rangoli is an art form in which patterns are created usually on the ground using materials such as coloured rice, dried food such as beans and lentils, flour, sand or flower petals. It is often made during festivals and it is thought to bring good luck.
For us at Sandwell Museums and Arts, we run quite a lot of temporary exhibition as you can imagine of all different kinds – we’ve had arts and crafts exhibitions, history exhibitions, sci-fi including Dr Who and Star Wars exhibitions, dinosaurs, sharks, portraits, Egyptians, Concorde etc to name but a few.
For us exhibitions are not just to be looked at but experienced, explored and are a chance for visitors to get their hands dirty, try something new or develop a skill.
As we all know Black Country people are creative people, they have worked for hundreds of years with their hands creating things of all kinds from whatever background they are from and I think it is now in the DNA!
From experience, here at Sandwell Museums and Arts Service we know that local people like to ‘have a go’ themselves and get involved.
Anyway with this in mind when we put together a new temporary exhibition we always make sure there are lots of opportunities for visitors, schools and community groups to get involved with and be creative themselves inspired by the displays and this exhibition certainly gave plenty of scope to get inspired and get creative.
Our Arts Officer applied for and successfully gained Town Grants funding ( more info @ https://www.sandwell.gov.uk/news/article/5323/artist_praises_council_for_helping_her_to_put_on_exhibition) to enable Ranbir to work with a variety of education and community groups at the museum as well as running our own simpler activities in school holidays and with other groups.
Here are the activities which we undertook with groups inspired by the exhibition.
- School holiday Rangoli – using a simple technique, young visitors (often along with the grown up they had brought along to the museum) had a go at creating their own Rangoli peacock (the peacock is the national bird of India) using dried food, colouring in and a paper plate. We even had a grown up come along to have a go to get some inspiration for his own artwork as he had seen the exhibition and was intrigued by some of the techniques used.
- Dementia group – A group of dementia sufferers and their partners or a family member who meet locally in Wednesbury each week as part of a fantastic support group came along for a visit to enjoy the exhibition and have a go themselves at creating a Rangoli tile. While the group were working away at their pieces of art we reminisced about holidays; first of all to see if anyone had been to India or anywhere exotic and then European holidays and then down to camping and caravan holidays in the UK. We also looked at some old photos from holidays in the past. The group had a great time, loved the exhibition, loved having a go and loved having a chat and we all had a laugh. They want to come back again and experience our old toys collection.
- The Wednesbury Museum painting groups – We have 3 community art groups who meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Wednesbury museum. They mainly work in oils but from time to time love trying new techniques, or enjoying visits out. On this occasion a selection of members of the 3 groups worked with Ranbir on fabric painting techniques, which was something new to most of them. Funded by Town Grants funding.
- Woodgreen Primary – 4 classes of fantastic children came along to the museum over 2 days to explore the exhibition, write stories about the objects they saw, draw pictures, undertake comprehension activities and create their own pieces of Rangoli to take back to school. As the children explored the museum they were also achieving their Arts Mark award, which is a qualification given to primary age children in art as museum staff are trained Arts Award assessors. As with all the groups we worked with we asked the children what they thought of the exhibition and the activities which they undertook. Funded by Town Grants Funding.
- Here is what the children and the teachers said about their day at the museum!
- I liked all the workers! (we like this comment!)
- The fancy designs
- The way we did Rangoli ourselves
- Sprinkling the beans
- Decorating the Rangoli
- Making art with beans
- I enjoyed when we did the patterns
- When we put the lentils inside the kidney bean patterns
- When asked what would make it better most children said more time at the museum or to come again – however one child said the thing that would make the visit better was food. I’m assuming he didn’t just mean the dried beans and lentils to make the Rangoli!
- The teacher said -amazing activity- the children have learnt a lot and had great fun, great ideas to take back to school
- The children with autism – Will also worked with a class of children from the Meadows School who came along to explore and enjoy the exhibition and with Ranbir worked on a large piece of Rangoli together with the name of their school on it. This they would take back to school to finish their and display it for parents, visitors and other children to see. It was a great opportunity for the children to explore and experience something new and they all really enjoyed the day out. Funded by Town Grants Funding.
- A temple group – A group of ladies came along from the temple which Ranbir has close ties with. The ladies enjoyed the exhibition and discussed the objects and worked with Ranbir. In their feedback forms they said it was a great opportunity for them to get out and meet new people and experience new things, they also said it was great for the younger generation to see some of the traditional craft techniques from India. One of the ladies that came was the grand old age of 99!! Funded by Town Grants Funding.
Members of the public- On two Saturday afternoons Ranbir was at the museum for members of the public to come along and see arts and crafts demonstrations, creating rag dolls and Rangoli. Visitors were also able to ask questions and get involved and were shown around the exhibition by Ranbir herself. Visitors feedback from this was that it helped them to learn new skills, raises awareness of some of these fantastic art forms and also of the museum itself, other noted ideas to try at home and one person said it ‘reminds me of my olden days’ which I think is a fantastic phrase. It was also great to see people from all parts of our fantastic diverse Black Country community coming along and enjoying together and sharing. Funded by Town Grants Funding.
This exhibition and the activities we undertook around it is a fantastic example of some of the things we get up to at Sandwell Museums and Arts, working with the community and educational groups as well as families and other members of the public. Our buildings and activities are community resources enjoyed by many different members of the community in different ways.
Our next temporary exhibition has just opened at Wednesbury Museum displaying Chance’s glassware and extracts from the staff magazines from the 1940s to 1960s. Also later today after I finish writing this blog we are running glass (well plastic) decorating workshops with families as part of our school holidays activities programme. We also have our Arts Trail on display, where local amateur artists and groups submitted pieces of art, photos and drawings along this years’ theme of ‘All the Fun of the Fair’. The entries are on display at our 4 main museum sites and you can vote for your favourite. Also at Wednesbury Museum throughout the summer you can see a fantastic piece of art created by Mesty Croft Primary Academy who were inspired by a variety of famous artists and a pop art display created by another local artist – this is not to mention our lively and varied school holiday activities taking place throughout August…..and that’s just one of our sites!
If you thought museums were places to be quiet and not touch anything at all then you haven’t visited Sandwell Museums!!!
Find out more about what’s on at Sandwell Museums and Arts at http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/joininmuseums
Jane Hanney-Martin – Museum Services Manager &
Alex Howell – Arts and Projects Officer