Shout it from the roof tops!

Museums are great, we (museum people) know this, we spend everyday telling people this, from outreach programmes, to print advertising, social media to competitions we’ve tried them all…

But sometimes,  shouting it from the roof tops is quite simply the most effective way of telling the world about how great our museums are.

Here are a couple of interesting examples that demonstrate this:

1. The National Museum of Ireland’s brilliant building size billboard sums up what the museum has to offer in a couple of words. Museums often struggle to produce concise yet effective visitor info but this example shows how great it can look – if done well!

Collins Barracks

2. This is actually a bit of an old one, but it fits in well with this post so here goes:

National Galleries of Scotland decorated their building with giant impressionist flowers during their ‘Impressionist Gardens‘ exhibition …it really brightened up the very traditional museum facade and no doubt prompted passing tourists to pop in for a look.

Is decorating the museum facade all a bit ‘old’ museum?

Decorating museum buildings is an interesting one, because so much of what I read, write and research is about the new museum, its about honest conversations with people. The new museum is about co creation, about multiple platforms and channels and decorating the museum building does seem a little bit one sided. The two examples I’ve shown are great but perhaps they could be even better if these museums got their community in on the action:

How can we make decorating the museum facade ‘new’ museum friendly?

In theory it’s simple: co create, talk to people, share and exchange ideas

  • Local communities could decorate the museum facade for an event or exhibition
  • Perhaps museums could help develop the career of an emerging artist with a design competition
  • Or crowd source images and illustrations for future banners or billboards

Do you have any examples of this kind of work? If so get in touch I’d love to add them to this post…

Lessons from Venice

I was lucky enough to work for the British Council and Arts Council of Northern Ireland at the 2009 Venice Biennale. My time in Venice was professionally priceless; it gave me the opportunity to engage with art and artists from around the world. I came away from Venice feeling inspired and challenged in equal portions.


The Venice Biennale presented the perfect opportunity to experiment, network and produce events and exhibitions.  Myself and a group of staff from other galleries decided to put our heads together and start a collective through which we could curate and show work during out time in Venice. Over a few bottles of Prosecco we decided on ‘Parallax’ as the name of our collective. Within the space of a few days we planned our first event a ‘see + talk’ session which we held in the court yard of the Northern Ireland pavilion (and the former home to Vivaldi!)This event was attended by over 30 people from more than 10 different countries, it took the form of a Pecha Kucha style event, with each artist discussing and answering questions about their work. Over the following weeks we curated performance art ‘crawls’, these consisted of site specific performances that engaged with the architecture of venice, we held exhibitions in apartments and palaces, we held making sessions from origami to drawing nights.

Parallax challenged the idea that the Venice Biennale is a place for established artists, it threw the floor open to a new generation or artists, curators and arts managers. Parallax provided us with the opportunity to examine our own practice, to grow professionally and to work in a peer supported environment. Parallax was unique in that it was not a funded project instead it was a collective of like minded people who pooled resources and expertise from printers to projectors, from web design to graphic design from courtyards to bedroom walls. Quite simply we had an idea, and we put it into practice.

Parallax in a Power Point

Parallax After Venice

Since the last Biennale Parallax has remained an active group of like minded individuals. Earlier this year we were contacted by galleries asking about how they could become involved in Parallax at the 2011 Venice Biennale.  It’s exciting to know that a small idea dreamed up over a bottle of Prosecco has made such an impact. 2 years after it was first conceived it has become a source of inspiration and mentoring for those working at this year’s Venice Biennale. Due to funding problems Northern Ireland won’t be at Venice this year, however Parallax will. The Fruit Market gallery are keen to breathe life into Parallax and I can’t wait to see how their invigilators creatively respond to living and working in Venice.

My advice to anyone working at this year’s Venice Biennale?

  • Bring business cards- they will get you free entry and exhibition catalogues
  • Bring Berocca- you won’t get a lot of sleep!
  • Bring lots and lots of Mosquito repellent (Irish art critic Aidan Dunne was so concerned by the size of my mosquito bites that he and his wife delivered repellent to my galley- sweet, but also terribly embarrassing)
  • No matter who you meet in Venice be it a ‘big’ artist, curator or critic, talk to them exchange emails, ask for advice. The sun makes people so much more approachable than at other big commercial events like Frieze
  • Get hold of a free British Council map, they are the best! The official Biennale map is really confusing