The Digital Museum: Should Museums Give Into Pressures of the Digital Era?

When was the last time you were allowed, let alone encouraged to use you phones at a museum?

Museums are recently creating new exhibitions and galleries, combining traditional arts with contemporary digital experiences.

Although these technologies have strong influences on the creative industries – the effectiveness of these technologies in traditional creative spaces continue to be questioned.

Whether museums and galleries should introduce digital technologies and in what ways are big questions in the arts community’ – Scarlett Evans

To capture a technologically-hungry younger generation, virtual experiences are being introduced in museums. However, although these technologies can increase audience reach; others see creative spaces as areas to escape digital activity.

NESTA’s Manifesto suggests that digital technologies are bringing in new audiences to arts and cultural organisations, creating new sources of cultural and economic value – how true is this regarding museums?

So how are digital technologies being used? Let’s examine some key areas:

The ‘Virtual Museum’

Some museums don’t exist in the real world, but are only available online – creating similar experiences, but from your personal devices!

The Natural History Museum recently introduced almost 4 million of its 80 million specimens to the internet, ranging from zoology, to a 3D exhibition of Charles Darwin’s fossils, hoping that people will have more access to these artefacts.

Artists using digital technology

Artists are now also using digital platforms to produce art, allowing artists to express themselves in ways previously impossible! But they’re also nudging museums down the same digital path.

The NESTA report claims the UK needs to ensure to offer an environment to spur innovation creative businesses undertake.

Beacon Technology

Museums are bringing in new software to provide personal guides and companions for exhibits, from smartphones to Virtual Reality (VR)! By introducing these software’s, visitors are able to interact with galleries in a whole new way.

For example, The Natural History Museum in London has introduced a VR experience featuring the legendary broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, guiding visitors through the museum’s central space – which should be a bit hit for all you Blue Planet fans!

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VR: Really Suited For Museums? Source – Pixabay


But do they increase audience reach?

Although implementing online exhibitions are likely to see recruitment of visitors, rather than cannibalise audiences, attendance figures show otherwise.

The Natural History Museum; among the most visited museums in the UK, has seen a significant decline in visitors; from around 5.5 million in 2013, to 4.6 million in 2017.

Yet, museums who haven’t introduced these technologies seem to be doing better than ever!

Take The National Museum Cardiff for example, where no immersive technologies like VR have been introduced. However, visitor numbers have been on a steady rise; from 448,288 in 2014, to 494,518 in 2017.

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As Digital As It Gets in National Museum Cardiff

The Victoria and Albert Museum also found a lack of interest towards their own interactive experiences – reflected in their low visitor numbers.

Granted, other reasons may have caused the fall in visitors in these exhibitions, but this does suggest a limited impact digital technologies have on these traditional creative spaces.

Yes, introducing VR and similar technologies could benefit museums to help educate and entertain, alongside to hopefully reach to modern audiences. However, I personally prefer the traditional physical museum experience – my smartphone in my pocket, chatting with fellow visitors and making my own perceptions of the exhibits.

There are many ways an immersive experience can be made without the need of VR and similar works!

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Creating an Immersive Physical Environment – Even The Poo on the Wall…

Yet, if digital technologies entice younger generations, provide artists with a new platform for representation, and help deeper discussion of pieces – I welcome the changes to the museums’ structure.

But what are your views? Let us know about your perceptions of a ‘digital museum’ in the comment section below!

 

All images are my own unless stated in the captions.

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Women in Focus: Can Further Representation of Women Help Cardiff Become a Creative City?

 

Calling all interested in insightful photography!

Women in Focus – Behind the Lens is part one of a two-part exhibition held at The National Museum Cardiff from May 5th to November 11th, 2018. This exhibition celebrates women’s contributions towards the history of photography; as producers, and subjects of images – Displayed from a unique female perspective.

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of The Representation of the People Act 1918; allowing some women to vote for the first time – it’s vital to continue to develop a women’s visual perspective in society.
 

The Exhibition

Upon entering the museum you will find a photographic timeline spanning over 150 years, showing the dramatic changes experienced in photography – from gender empowerment to production techniques.

These images range from works by ‘Wales’s first female photographer’ – Mary Dillwyn, focusing on Welsh nature and landscapes in the nineteenth century; to contemporary pieces documenting personal lives of the marginalised and vulnerable in society.

 

 ‘There are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them’ – Diane Arbus

 

Eve Arnold’s work particularly caught my eye, the first women to join the prestigious Magnum photography agency – known for working with The Queen, Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X.

Yet, Arnold also excels at photographing the poor and vulnerable in society. It takes great skill for a photographer to represent both sides of the social world – the rich and the poor, so it was a pleasure to experience her work’s diversity.

 

Can representing women make Cardiff a creative city?

Gender inequality continues to be at the forefront of public debate in the creative industries – from the lack of women headlining music festivals, to the under-representation of women in higher positions of the industry.

The photography sector is not excluded from debate.

The industry continues to be male-dominated, where only 32% of employees in the photo-imaging industry are women, undermining the principles of artistic work, where debate is encouraged and differing views are expressed loudly and without timidity

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‘Becoming Forest’ – Helen Sear

 

How can this make Cardiff a creative city?

Embarrassingly, I will admit that I know few female photographers – yet I was delighted to be able to experience women’s success in photography, especially Welsh photographers!

This exhibition provides a platform to empower women, gaining insights into a range of different perspectives not apparent when examined in a male angle.

This is essential when developing a creative city, as a range of different perceptions are required to make sure the creative works are accessible for all to debate, As Richard Florida highlights –  ‘tolerance’ is essential to become a creative city; requiring openness, inclusiveness and diversity to all walks of life

As urban planning remains largely in the hands of middle-aged men, female perspectives may find areas where traditional planning neglects; such as social interaction spaces, accessibility, play areas, among many others.

Women also have access to different groups in society men lack – the LGBT community, domestic violence groups, and other under-represented groups for example. So, greater control would bring a whole range of perspectives to the table!

Providing women with a place for their voices and knowledge is the first step to ensuring women’s values will be placed at the forefront of urban planning, creating a creative space for all to appreciate.

I believe this exhibition is a stepping-stone towards women taking greater control of the cultural industries to represent not only women, but also welsh history and allow Cardiff to lead the way to new directions of storytelling and engagement.

Cardiff is not yet listed as a creative city by UNESCO, but hopefully recognising women’s creative talent will be a positive move forwards towards the creative status Cardiff deserves.

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‘Untitled’ – Helen Muspratt

This exhibition is free and suitable for all ages, I would highly recommend attending!

For more information on Women in Focus, including the following exhibition – click here.

 

All images used are my own.

 

That’s a bit (Alphonse) Mucha!

These days, you don’t tend to find many people who can say they’ve been to an Art Exhibition recently, and even less who have actually paid to view art. So, what’s going on?

When in Prague recently, I was instantly drawn to an Art Exhibition (located just off the Old Town Square) featuring works by Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and the Czech artist, Alphonse Mucha. This was not a free exhibition however, and I paid 250 CZK (£8 GBP) for the pleasure of viewing all three artists. But was it worth it and would it have been more inclusive and popular if it was free to enter??

Art: A great way to get over your hangover blues

I initially just wanted to see the Andy Warhol exhibition as I have been a fan of his work for a number of years and he inspired influence within my own pieces of artwork. I was reluctant to pay to see all three exhibits, partly because I was starting to run out of money and partly because I didn’t really understand Dali’s work and had never heard of Mucha. But it was cold outside, I was hungover and the exhibition had free WiFi, so I went. Looking back now, I’m incredibly glad I did, as it was by far my most favourite memory from the trip. 250 CZK may be a lot of money when you’re abroad on a student budget, but the amount of art culture and history that I absorbed was priceless.

Art in Dalivision

We started in the Dali exhibit, which offered an insight into the strange and weird world of the Spanish surrealist artist. I was instantly drawn into the paintings and sculptures because of their bizarre nature, but drew new appreciation for Dali after reading about his life and influences.

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Czech him out!

The next exhibition was Alphonse Mucha. I had never heard of Mucha, and wasn’t very enthused to pay to see his work originally. However after seeing Mucha’s work I fell in love with it. The beauty of his art was astounding and almost ethereal and I have since become a great fan of him, and I’m incredibly glad that decided to see it in the end.

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A (War)hol lotta love

Lastly was Andy Warhol, the man who had created the artwork I’d been waiting my whole life to see in the flesh. The man I’d done so many art projects on and had influenced a large portion of my own artwork. It was amazing to not only be able to see  his most famous and influential works, but some of his lesser known pieces too.

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The art of free Art

After consuming all the exhibition had to offer, I am bought back to the question- Why are we not going to Art Galleries or Museums anymore?? There has been a significant decline in people visiting places like this all over the world, with many people being put off by expensive entrance fees and long queues. However in this day and age it’s often necessary to charge fee’s for such exhibits and museums as funding and support for the arts is declining, meaning that they are under pressure to raise enough money to support themselves.

Although I was initially reluctant to pay to enter this exhibition, I’m incredibly glad I did, as I have gained a new appreciation not only for Warhol and Dali, but was also introduced to another amazing artist that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Was the 250 CZK worth it?

Yes, it was!

 

 

Dublin There, Done That: UNESCO’s City of Literature

A tiny capital with an enormous reputation…

Dublin as a city prides itself on its creative flair; enriched with prestigious literature and a thriving contemporary live music scene. With a lively pub on every street corner and a historic gem at every turn, in Dublin, you’re never too far from culture in some shape or form.

Literature of all kinds is cherished and celebrated here in Ireland’s capital, having produced a multitude of influential writers, poets and artists ranging from Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, to U2 and The Dubliners. So whatever your personal taste, I’m sure Dublin has it covered!

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Dublin’s vibrant live music scene

Being half Irish myself but never having visited it’s capital, my parents were keen to give me lots of top tips. On the first night, we decided to hit up Whelan’s (a pub/music venue hybrid) on quirky Camden Street, where the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Ed Sheeran have performed. Our plans quickly changed after we heard that the entry cost was €16… as a student, that’s the amount I budget for my weekly food shop!

Instead, we headed back to the all-too-touristy Temple Bar district, where there are more pubs than people, all of which host a merry Irishman sat on a little stool strumming on a humble guitar and singing old Irish folk ballads – all with free entry! Which explains the popularity of Temple Bar (although I must add that they make up for the free entry with their extortionate drink prices)!

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The magical Book of Kells exhibition in the Old Library

Next morning we headed over to one of Ireland’s most impressive must-sees: The Book of Kells exhibition and the Old Library. Located in the heart of the city, this ancient treasure of Christianity is housed in the beautiful Trinity College (which in itself is worth a visit!). But at an €11 entry fee, I couldn’t help but be too inwardly annoyed about the cost to fully appreciate the spectacle around me.

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And finally… the infamous Guinness Storehouse

How have I got this far without mentioning Dublin’s beloved Guinness? I’m sure you’re all aware of the stereotype that the Irish have a soft spot for drinking, from Jameson Whiskey to Magners Cider.

But Guinness… Guinness is more than just a drink for Dubliners, Guinness is a way of life.

“My favourite food from my homeland is Guinness. My second choice is Guinness. My third choice – would have to be Guinness.”

– Peter O’Toole, Irish actor

So without question, visiting the original Guinness Brewery in St. James’s Gate was above all else top of my to-do list. And by the looks of things, top of most people’s list as the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction… and Guinness gracious me it did not disappoint!

What happened to the value of art?

It makes you think doesn’t it, that if I – a self-proclaimed music lover –  wouldn’t be willing to pay much more than a couple of quid to listen to some live music, who else feels the same?

As for the Book of Kells, I’d have been just as content with a quiet amble around St Stephens Green park for my dose of literary culture as it’s renowned for having many legendary writers ponder in its fields… without having to spend a penny!

It’s no wonder less people are engaging with the arts these days – it simply costs too much. It’s been estimated that just 3% of adults in England regularly participate in cultural events and this group are typically well-educated and from a higher economic background… basically if you’re clever and rich you can afford these luxuries.

Creative city… worth a visit?

So, whether you’ve come to soak up the rich heritage Dublin has to offer, fill yourself to the brim with the Ireland’s famous stout, or jig along to the sound of an acoustic Irish guitar…

…Dublin’s got your back, whether you’ve got money in your pocket or not!

(Featured Image: Flickr)

Come On Museums, Keep Up With The Technology Of The Times!

It’s no secret that technology and the internet are well and truly taking over our whole lives, and this can have a negative impact on the cultural sector- in particular for museums.

Children now a days can manoeuvre their way around a smart phone before they even start school. As a child, I would sit for hours with my Lego collection and make whatever I could possibly imagine, there was no limit to my creativity; one day I could build a house and the next I could build a life-size rocket ship with a functioning engine and an on board popcorn machine. However, as we fully transition into the online age, children play with angry birds and temple run- a sense of entertainment contained within a small piece of technology. As children move away from toys and imagination, it is crucial that we adapt to this throughout the cultural industries in order to gain their attention and keep them educated and culturally aware.

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Photo by Una Laurencic from Pexels

As a child, a trip to the museum was a special occasion. My favourite was always the National History Museum, and no trip to London was complete without me gawping at the life-size replica of a blue whale. I could still tell you facts that I gathered from that place, as a small child. Did you know that the biggest brain on earth belongs to a sperm whale? Didn’t think so! However, children now are likely to not find model animals and ancient fossils as interesting as I did ten years ago- so it’s important that museums adapt in order to keep our children engaged.

In Cardiff we are lucky enough to have the National Museum of Wales on our very doorstep, as well as an array of others such as St Fagans and the National Roman Legion Museum. Luckily due to public funding, admissions to the National Museum of Wales are free, meaning there is no excuse to not bring along children to gain valuable knowledge about the earth, history and most importantly their own culture. With funding for the cultural sector extremely limited, it is crucial that museums adapt to appeal to a current audience to increase participation in the sector and remain to be seen as a public good. Upon visiting the National Museum of Wales I noted a few changes that are crucial for appealing to the modern day child.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

Personalisation

In a live discussion, Jim Richardson explains the personalised feature that museums will include in the future, and I believe it is vital for remaining up to date with the technology of the time which is catered to our own personal tastes and browsing histories. He states in a Guardian online live discussion under the username SumoJim, ‘I think the future of museums will be a lot more personalised then the current one fits all visitor experience, with technology allowing people with different interests to each have a tailored experience. This will be increasingly enabled by the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) culture which means everyone carries a compute in their pocket.’ You can read the rest of Jim’s ideas about the personalisation of museums by following this link and scrolling down to the comments section.

More Interactivity

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Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

The museums extensive range of exhibitions are both interesting and informative, to older visitors. However, often children don’t want to just look at or read something, – they want to be INVOLVED. Whether it be videos that encourage them to follow and play along, virtual reality experiences, or even things they can touch and feel- this will definitely increase their interest in the topic they are learning about.

It is clear that if the museums must adapt in order to remain a relevant public good and encourage audience participation in the cultural sector. The times are moving with technology, and it’s only right that museums should too.

 

 

The East Side Gallery – The Openness of Contemporary Art

Everyone’s heard of the East Side Gallery, right? The Gallery is a massive tourist attraction in Berlin, with 5 million people visiting the open-air exhibition every year. From learning about the Wall at school, to the millions of Instagram pictures you’ll see of it, I’m sure the ‘East Side Gallery’ rings a bell. But how about the Berlinische Art Gallery? Or the Gemäldegalerie Art Museum? If you said yes to these, then you must be an art enthusiast! But if you said no, don’t worry, I hadn’t either until I went to visit the city in February.

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Image Source: Eleanor White

I knew what tourist attractions I wanted to visit. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Site, the East Side Gallery, and the Reichstag Building were definite must sees. The art museums were appealing after I googled, ‘Top tourist attractions in Berlin’, but they did not have the same appeal once I arrived and saw the price of tickets – can you believe some museums cost €18 to get in? I brushed that idea to one side.

Low Art or High Art? Does it matter?

This brings up the debate of, low and high art. I found myself avoiding the highly priced museums as there was so much more to see that didn’t involve spending money- being a student, this was very appealing! Is the accessibility of the East Side Gallery (low art)  more appealing to the masses? Or do I lack the sophistication to enjoy the art masterpieces (high art)? What I knew for sure was, I could save the money I would have spent on a ticket for the museums on more of Germany’s classic steins, yet still experience breath-taking art work!

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Image Source: Eleanor White

When I think of high art, classical music, poetry and the opera come to mind. But when I think of low art, rock music, cartoons and street art, pops into my head. But should art be put into two separate boxes? Many argue that art is subjective.

I think Picasso’s art work is, let’s just say, strange… but you might think it’s the most amazing art in the world! So, should more be taken into consideration than just labels? Before my trip to Berlin, I’d never heard of it’s culturally prestigious art museums, which just goes to show the limited audience that high art appeals to. My knowledge of the 30 best bars in Berlin, however, was far more impressive.

The Wall – Is it just graffiti?

Graffiti is generally considered ‘low art’. The amount of crudely drawn penises I have seen graffitied onto the sides of train tracks and bus stands definitely takes away from the artistic flair of graffiti. But from the scale and detail of the East Side Gallery, I would not consider the exhibition as graffiti. Each panel told a story and provided food for thought, as many onlookers (including myself) stopped and absorbed the artistic and political messages. To me, the Wall shouldn’t be categorised as either high or low art, but is instead a unique hybrid of the two. Banksy’s graffiti work sprang to mind when I was at the Wall, proving my point even more when I say, graffiti should be classed as art. Not just street art – but art.

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Image Source: Eleanor White

The Wall was much longer than I had expected, but as I got to the end of the exhibition, I wanted to enjoy another mile of graffiti work – which is not something people usually say about street art! In my opinion the East Side Gallery is a one of a kind attraction incorporating artistic, political, and historical references, sparking conversation and encouraging creativity.

But don’t just take my word for it, have a look at this amazing virtual tour of the Wall and make up your own mind!

(Featured image: Eleanor White)

 

 

Nothing in this life is free: should you have to pay for culture?

In 2017, the average British family spent £73.50 a week on recreation and culture. While this may seem like a large amount on first glance, the Office for National Statistics included a host of activities under this bracket, from sports participation to downloading music. Despite this generous categorisation, these figures can allow us to consider what we are really spending our money on. Whilst some consider it our human right to engage in culture, the truth is that the creative industries have been witness to a mass decrease in available funding. With the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport dedicated to promoting this sector, the question remains: is culture a public or private good? Once the curtain falls, who should foot the bill?

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The changing face of theatre. Credit: Lennart Tange (via Flickr)

Where is the money?

The 2008 global financial crisis hit the cultural sector hard. According to Arts Council, the aftermath of the economic downturn meant that there was a 20 per cent reduction in local authorities’ spending between 2009/10 and 2014/15. This has resulted in an often volatile and competitive cultural landscape where venues must compete for a slice of the ever-shrinking money pie. Everything must be funded in one way or another if they are to survive. However, it can sometimes require a combination of determination, innovation and luck to secure the required finances. For the consumer, this can mean that cultural venues either don’t have the money required to operate, or have inflated prices at the door.

Personal experience

This year I have attended a host of cultural events. In March, I saw a highly-acclaimed West End musical, and in February I attended an intimate local comedy performance. Both of these required me to pay money, and while the latter was less expensive, I nonetheless had to reach into my pocket to experience both. However, this wasn’t brought to my attention until I attended Women Representing Womenin April, a performance-based workshop and conference which looked into representation and exclusivity. The event, which was entirely free, had been made possible by research funding. It brought together women from all walks of life to discuss issues they felt strongly about, included talks and interactive workshops, and culminated in a final live performance. There was even food and drink provided throughout the weekend – all for free.

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The conference was held over a 2 day period. Credit: Carolyn Westwater

Culture for all

It felt somewhat out of the ordinary to wander into a venue, listen to speakers and engage in culture without giving anything in return. But why is this? In reality, there are a host of free events up and down the country for those who wish to seek them out. Eventbrite is a great tool for finding these. The Culture White Paper contends that “everyone should enjoy the opportunities that culture offers, no matter where they start in life”. While it would be futile to suggest that all cultural output should be free of charge, local authorities should have provisions in place to support those who are in a disadvantaged position. This could be done by creating a hardship fund for financial aid or by ensuring that there are a minimum number of free events that everyone can attend.

Attending Women Representing Women opened my eyes to the ways in which events can be produced for a low-cost whilst also being equally as rewarding for the attendees. The truth is that there will always be some aspects of culture that are extortionately priced, as commercial companies utilise their success and find opportunity to make money. However, culture is ultimately a public service and a basic human right, and every corner of society should have the opportunity to engage in it in one way or another.

Featured image credit: Cosmix (via Pixabay)

 

Culture finds itself in your city, but can you find the culture?

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(Image- Pexels)

Can you believe that 43,777 people visited Cardiff’s National Museum in April?

The ways we consume culture has been changing rapidly in the last decade, from digital disruption, busy schedules and just stereotypes of museums . So, you can see where this is going.

Culture is being diversified from a one to one experience, to being shared on platforms and produced in any way, whether it be a video blog or a photograph.

Yes that’s right, Instagram has an impact on yet another thing. Technology has evolved, making it quicker for audiences to view and access art and culture, but that’s it. They are not aware of what their city as a creative has to offer, in the terms that culture is accessible without needing to use technology.

But, don’t get me wrong we’re all guilty of using online social platforms as an easy way out to view creative cities. Ian Hargreaves says that technology is transforming the creative process, meaning that the ways people exhibit their creativity is changing, as well as the ways in which we choose to view it. Making it vital that we show communities how they can enhance their cities creative and cultural industry, without making it a digital spectacle.

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(Image- Pexels)

This poses as a threat to creative cities because more people are becoming less and less culture hungry. Because there is less interest in the cultural aspects of a city, there will be a knock on effect on the creative economy since, audiences are not made aware of what is available to them or more times than not, they do not know that such culture exists in their city.

Why not take a look into the arts and cultural industry in your city. I live in the Welsh capital Cardiff, where the growth of Cardiff as a creative city has provided the city with a stronger creative identity.

In some cities an arts and cultural industry is not prominent, so you should make the most of Cardiff, and utilise the Museum, Cardiff Bay and the Millennium Stadium.

So why not start with The National Museum Cardiff?

The National Museum Cardiff has something to offer everyone, whether it be 500 years of welsh ceramics to the new Marine gallery. Yes, I know I live here and could be completely bias, but honestly growing up in London there is no reason to not believe that Cardiff should not be considered as a creative city.

As a Welsh assembly run museum, it relies a lot on the help from the community. Ian Hargreaves says that public funding supports over half of the industry. If creative cities do not pull together and recognise their importance, evidently there physically would be no way to uphold cultural industries like museums.

Get involved with the National Museum Cardiff by:

  • Donations
  • Volunteering

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(Image – Genice John-Lewis)

Reasons to love “the diff”: 

  • More creative jobs
  • A creative community
  • Encourages creative enterprise
  • Globalising as a creative economy – Investors on a worldwide scale

 

All of these attributes make the city known internationally as a creative city that is prospering year after year, and it is something you should be a part of.

National Museum Cardiff ‘s efforts

  • Education activities – Educating communities on what it means to be a part of a creative city
  • More exposure to cultural activities – to stimulate interest in the creative and cultural industries and encourage the public to support the work of the museum and raise funds
  • Artist profiles to build a following for artists who contribute to the Museum

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(Image – Genice John-Lewis)

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(Image –museum.wales website)

 Who Decides? Is a free exhibition currently being held at the National Museum Cardiff running until September 2nd 2018. The exhibition features contemporary art pieces from sculptures to films, which have been acquired over the last 10 years.

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(Image – Genice John-Lewis)

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(Image – Genice John-Lewis)

They want visitors to be engaging with the art. Using innovative ideas to encourage engagement and make people interested in the culture their city produces.

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(Image – Genice John-Lewis)

What are you waiting for? Who knows, you might even discover new reasons as to why Cardiff is a creative city.

To donate to the National Museum Cardiff click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester: the latest addition to UNESCO’s Creative City network

Bustling with people, packed with culture and filled with community spirit, Manchester exudes an air of gritty, authentic creativity, from the roots up. It is no surprise that it has recently (in 2017), been named one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities for its rich and unique literary heritage. After a recent visit to Manchester in March 2018, I’m about to tell you why it deserves such an accolade…

Deep rooted in literary history, Manchester is home to greats such as Anthony Burgess and Carol Ann Duffy, and as a city, it prides itself on supporting emerging talent through creative events such as Manchester Literature Festival and the National Black and Asian Writers Conference. Even throwing it back to the 80s, Manchester was the also birthplace of the first ever lending library!

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Some of the civic grandeur that Manchester has to offer (Image: Pixabay)

Far more than just its literary legacy though, Manchester offers a little bit of everything for everyone. Whether you enjoy a walking down picturesque canals, a delve into history at Manchester museum, a potter around the city’s super hip Northern Quarter or a bite to eat at one of its quirky independent eateries, it’s a thriving city with endless avenues to explore.

Whilst in Manchester, a close and compassionate friend of mine hosted an event in a bid to raise money and awareness for the homeless community. The aim was to host an array of creative expressions of art – from poems and live music to art exhibitions to DJ’s on decks. The event championed all forms, shapes, sizes and varieties of talent: no standards needed to be met, no judgment and no hate. Just real, raw community art. And to top off this authentic feel, it was held in an active squat, with the location only revealed a few hours prior to the opening.

Working alongside Love C.O.P’s – a squatting crew dedicated to hosting and co-producing inclusive, community-centred events or activities inside occupied spaces – Art on the Sly appealed to all artists, musicians and performers with the question: “Are you an artist on the sly?

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(Image: Art on the Sly Facebook Page)

The founders of the project stressed the purpose behind the event:

“We wanted to get people to appreciate art/poetry/music that they wouldn’t normally encounter, and provide a safe, non-judgmental space for anyone to take the stage/walls/decks!”

Dozens of artists shared their unnoticed (until now!) talents, showcased in an environment of shapeless beauty. After awkwardly ducking under a stern block of wood (AKA the entrance), and donating all the money I had in my purse (£8.40), I was greeted by my friend (Hi Grace).

The on-looking crowd soaked up all the creativity and flair that this wonderful, alternative event had to offer. And in return, a festival-like energy generated, fuelling the party into the early hours of a brisk Sunday morning in England’s ‘Northern capital’.

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The hustle and bustle of attendees (Image: Art on the Sly Facebook Page)

When asking my friend to explain a little more about the cause, she elaborated:

“We wanted to create something that would appeal to a wide range of people as there is a divide between the student community and native Mancunians in the city.”

The event really underlined the value of community art, and the strive to create unity through creativity. Community art plays a huge role in connecting social groups, generations and cultures – and Art on the Sly definitely created an opportunity for people to come together, all with one vital thing in common: a love and appreciation of creativity.

This was Art on the Sly‘s debut event, but judging by its roaring success… I’m sure it will be the first of many. Check out their page for updates here.

(Feature image: Mike Kniec on flickr)