Richard Bateman, Creative Director at award-winning creative agency westfourstreet, interviews the Director of MK Gallery, Anthony Spira
It’s 18 years since MK Gallery opened, and it opened in some style too with the Gilbert & George exhibition attracting over 18,000 visitors. That first exhibition really signalled your intentions, didn’t it?
It did, and many of our early intentions still stand today: to be bold, ambitious, inclusive, and to bring world-class art to Milton Keynes.
We are currently working with renowned British practice 6a architects on a major expansion and renovation of the main building.
This will see us reopen in spring 2019 with larger exhibition spaces, a new auditorium – for film, music, dance and other activities – overlooking Campbell Park, plus learning and community spaces and an independent café bar and shop.
What are the challenges of selecting a wide diversity of exhibitions in order to attract visitors?
Is there a lot of compromising involved? We are driven by the belief that culture improves lives, which is reflected through our diverse exhibitions, work with schools and community groups, events, and outreach programmes.
We’ve listened to audience feedback and our exhibition spaces are being doubled in size which will enable us to include high profile and historical shows alongside the contemporary.
One of our early aims with the expansion was to create a “living room for the city” – a world-class social and cultural space which can be enjoyed by all.
What are the aspirations of The Gallery to continue to have a cultural impact in Milton Keynes?
How do you see this developing? We are delighted to be playing a significant role in shaping Milton Keynes through creating a new cultural venue of this scale and quality.
Regularly cited as the fastest growing place in the UK, the city will see considerable regional investment over the forthcoming years in a growth corridor between Cambridge and Oxford.
We believe it’s important that our ambition aligns with the city’s and that culture is central to its identity.
Our enhanced facilities will allow us to work with many more partners locally, nationally and internationally and to reach far larger and more diverse audiences.
The plans look quite incredible. How is the expansion progressing and when can we expect to walk through its doors?
Building work is progressing rapidly, which is very exciting. Construction began in autumn 2017 and will continue until the summer.
This will then be followed by a period of fit-out prior to reopening next spring.
We have an online blog at www.mkgalleryexpansion.org where you can follow our progress.
During the expansion, you’re still running events. What can we look forward to in 2018?
There’s lots happening between now and the Gallery reopening. We’re continuing to deliver City Club, a programme of new art, performances, family activities and talks inspired by the original cultural plans for MK.
Artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman are the creators of the project, developed by the Gallery in collaboration with artists and arts organisations across MK.