Who says that art has to be for adults? It certainly isn’t this summer at the Bluecoat, where the gallery has transformed into a site of play. Immersive and colourful, Are You Messin’? is designed to be explored, touched and discovered, all with the youngest visitors in mind.
This show may be close to a playground but it boasts an impressive list of artists who have contributed to the show. Each one of the four galleries is an individual display, with events by the artists regularly animating the spaces throughout the summer months.
Starting in Gallery One, Gregory Herbert presents an audience favourite – an immersive space, filled with sensory wonders and eye-catching visuals to a soothing soundtrack. The artist’s interests lie in the realm of biology and flora, taking inspiration from living organisms such as fungi, sea creatures and gut bacteria. Rather than rushing from one painting to the next like we may perhaps be used to doing in most traditional exhibitions, Herbert’s installation is a room for relaxation where you’ll find cosy places to spend some time in. Your little ones might relax too, but we can’t promise anything! The sensory room has been designed with the help of children from four Liverpool primary schools, who also collaborated on making the artworks in Gallery One.
London-based artist Katie Schwab’s display can be found in Gallery Two. This one’s a treat for those of us, young and old, who have ever been told “please do not touch”. Schwab is an artist who often works with textiles and craft in a broader sense, employing multiple media, collaboration and participation. For the show, she has created a tactile room filled with sculptures, layered textures and touchable surfaces, embodying the concept of learning through play. The display is inspired by 1950s ceramic tile work from Carter of Poole that once decorated the celebrated Lewis’s department store in Liverpool city centre, as well as a book by Italian artist Bruno Munari, in which he suggests gathering objects and textures to create a tactile library for children.
Gallery Three is an artist’s studio for children, providing resources for making their own art and decorated with ‘inspiration works’, such as sculptures, prints and drawings by artists Penny Davenport, Kate Hodgson, Aliyah Hussain, Fauziya Johnson, Josie Jenkins, Kohenoor Kamal, Emily Lansley, Millie Toyin Olateju, Niloo Sharifi, Linny Venables. There is also furniture made by Crown Building Studios. These pieces will work as starting points for the visitors to use when making their own creations.
Once you’ve seen some art and then made your own, pop into Gallery Four where you can do some reading. The space features a selected reading list, which also includes dual language books focusing on creativity and identity. Local abstract painter Millie Toyin Olateju has created a hanging mobile especially for the room. Her colourful and paintings result from a process of play and experimentation with materials, not unlike those that young visitors will be encouraged to take part in at the exhibition.
Come along to the Bluecoat for a family day of creative activities and inspiration. Afterwards, if the sun is out, you can sit in the gallery courtyard garden too!