Milton Keynes Gallery has been awarded Best Family Arts Activity at the Fantastic for Families 2021 Awards.
The gallery achieved recognition for their Sensory Boxes offer, which was instigated by the Inclusive Practice in the Arts team in February of this year, in response to the continued Covid-19 lockdowns.
The boxes were especially designed for families who have a child or children with complex needs, many of whom had previously engaged with their bespoke Art and Us in-person workshops at the Gallery. Boxes were carefully devised by the Gallery’s specialist team of artists, who responded directly to family’s creative interests and access requirements. The boxes contained a wide range of sensorybased materials which aimed to ignite play, spark curiosity and increase connectionwithin the home environment, and were accompanied by a supporting creative video message from each artist.
The team received an overwhelmingly positive response from families about the boxes, one parent/carer commented: ‘The boxes have been the next best thing to attending in person sessions, and each month ‘box day’ (when they have been delivered) has been one of the very few highlights during lockdown’,
The Fantastic for Families Awards are part of The Family Arts Campaign, a national Sector Support Organisation which aims to raise family engagement with arts and culture. MK Gallery was one of five winners in this category.
Other winners included Flamingo Chicks in Bristol, The Whitworth in Manchester, and Wigmore Hall and Tramshed in London. The Sensory Boxes offer was also shortlisted for the Audience Impact and Innovation Award.
Bethany Mitchell, who was Curator of Inclusion at MK Gallery and instrumental in initiating the programme, commented: “It’s a real honour to receive this award which acknowledges both the great creativity and versatility of our Associate Artist team and the incredible imaginations and adventurous spirit of our families. It was a true privilege to deliver the Sensory Box offer and a joy to stay connected with our family audience over this difficult time.”
The offer has been so well-received that the team has decided to embed the Sensory Boxes into their core Art and Us programme going forward, offering families a more blended approach to engaging with artists and creative activities.
Jemima Senior, Inclusion Coordinator, MK Gallery, said: “We are looking forward to continuing this at-home experience which encourages children and families to act, communicate and express themselves in ways they mind most meaningful.”
Sophie Bennett, Producer of Inclusion, MK Gallery, said: “I think it’s really exciting that we now have this digital and remote strand to our work that simply didn’t exist before Covid, and it will hopefully be a long-lasting positive legacy from what has otherwise been a very challenging time. Going through this
experience with our families, our artists and our team at the Gallery has been an enormous learning curve, and winning this award gives me huge confidence in our ability to flex and adapt further in the future, so we can continue providing highquality opportunities, particularly for those families who face the most barriers to access.”
The awards ceremony took place as part of the National Family Arts Online Conference 2021, at which the Gallery’s IPA team delivered a presentation on the subject of, ‘Continuing to provide opportunities to families who require additional support: what’s next?’.