A project exploring access to cultural spaces with young people from refugee backgrounds.
Canvas(s) was born out of the following provocation:
Could a partnership of small organisations and independent practitioners, with diverse practices linked by the issues of rights, develop new insights and methods to improve access for young people from refugee backgrounds at a large cultural institution?

We planned to explore and test how this unique partner skill-set could be shared and applied to support a process of change at an institution facing challenges in diversifying audiences. Could the knowledge and expertise of these partners be transferred into a set of approaches to tackle access issues? What agency could a group of young people from refugee backgrounds develop when brought into the heart of a cultural institution?

The focus of our exploration was the UK’s foremost museum of western European Art, The National Gallery. We were attracted by the cultural specificity and tradition imbued in this institution and the challenge it has in being relevant to the lives of diverse young people.

The project is carried out by a partnership Autograph ABP, Migrants Rights Network, Counterpoints Arts, British Red Cross and the National Gallery

Over the course of a year we explored cultural spaces across London, comparing their different environments and collections. We conducted research by interviewing staff and visitors about their experiences of these places. We met artists and performers who gave us insights into their creative process and worked with the young people to make their own artworks.

For the conclusion of the project the young people were commissioned to create a change at the National Gallery which could attract more young and diverse audiences. Working with a poet and a musician, the young people created an audio trail that takes you on an immersive and personal journey through the galleries. Using words, sounds and music the trail brings the paintings and surrounding environment to life.

Launched on 24th June 2017 marking Refugee Week, the Canvas(s) project aspires to make the audio trail available at the National Gallery in the future.

For more information, you can download our reflections here.