5 things that make the BALTIC an inspirational place

On Friday I went to the BALTIC for the first time. I expected to spend an hour there but ended up spending half a day….and left wishing I had more time to spare. I visit lots of museums and galleries as a result it takes a lot to impress me. I was beyond impressed by the BALTIC and here are 5 reasons why.

1.Friendly staff

You’ll not find any bored looking staff, sitting in a dark corner in the BALTIC. 80% of the BALTIC’s Front of House Team or the ‘Crew’ as they are known are practicing artists. The BALTIC takes a really innovative approach to staff development with Crew Members going through a 3 tiered training programme, firstly an induction programme, secondly communication skills from learning to deliver guided tours to learning sign language. Thirdly the Crew get to develop their own projects, learn research skills from how to facilitate a focus group to observational research. The Crew even get to travel internationally to research exhibitions and education programmes.

2.Great interactive spaces 

Rather than a small space in the basement, the interactive response space in the BALTIC takes over nearly a full floor. With a great range of furniture and activities this is the type of place that you would love to spend all day. They run a weekly mother and toddler group in this space.

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3.Lovely, bright and comfy library

Comfy sofa, great books, journals and art world type magazines. A photocopier and an honesty box. If I lived in Newcastle I think I would move into this library.

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4.Relaxed cafe, yummy food

A great coffee shop, massive glass fronted facade. A range of newspapers. Tea in a teapot and again great staff. This is the perfect place to sit with a cup of tea for a couple of hours, read the paper and hold a meeting.

5.Fantastic building 

It’s like the Tate Modern but with character.

I think the BALTIC has lots to teach other cultural organisations about creating engaging, exciting, dynamic, friendly yet challenging environments. 

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‘I felt like I won a Nobel prize!!’

The Void Gallery, Derry~Londonderry is an artist run, internationally significant gallery. Alongside its international exhibition programme the Void has strong local links, and is a gallery very much at the heart of the local community.

When looking at their Facebook page earlier this week I came across these letters of Thanks:

letter of thanks courtesy of the Void Facebook page

The letters provide a valuable insight into what makes a brilliant visitor experience. They also show what visitors (especially children) remember about their gallery visit. Whilst probably structured by a teacher, each letter discusses three areas of the visit with great enthusiasm and individual character.

1. VIEWING: The art in the gallery 

‘I remember looking at the most magnificent picture in the world’

‘The one I like was about the old run down building…yet it was so plain…it told a fascinating story’

‘The exhibitions are breathtaking… they are that good’

2. ENGAGING: Seeing their art on display in ‘a real gallery

‘I saw my picture on the wall I literally went ecstatic. I felt like I won a Nobel Prize’

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in and saw my own classes pictures and poems stuck up on the wall’

‘I was so proud of myself it was like a life long dream come true’

3. REFLECTING:  With juice and biscuits to finish 

‘The juice was Orange and the biscuits were cookies’

‘Even though I loved the tour I looked forward to the end because the staff gave us orange juice and cookies’

The children remembered in equal portions the art, their art and the juice.

These three elements created an engaging and memorable gallery experience that lead one child to say

‘I’m just literally telling you, this place would blow your socks off’

To see the rest of these letters, or to follow the work of the Void head over to their Facebook Page.