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All things art and audiences

As a recognised global voice on art and audiences, I bring deep knowledge and experience to cultural organisations, big or small, to support them as places that foster well-being, inclusion, diversity and connection.

HELPING CULTURAL ORGANISATIONS ADAPT AND FLOURISH

To remain relevant and deliver outcomes like community connection and improved mental health, or to simply maximise their potential, cultural organisations need to widen and deepen engagement with the arts and cultural experiences, for new audiences and for repeat visitors. 

 

You might want to:

  • grow your audience - to remain relevant to those who already come and to reach out to new people.

  • increase access to your spaces and resources, creating equal opportunities for all people.

  • identify barriers to participation and look at ways to break them down.

  • invest in and empower your staff.

  • understand/further develop the positive impacts of arts engagement on people's health and well-being.

 

I can help with this by delivering training in enhancing visitor experience; audience development; art and well-being; and access and inclusion.

Working with me is an opportunity to create new narratives, to give a voice to those who have none, to instigate conversation, to imagine the future, to nurture critical thinking, and to create. 

My wealth of experience in the UK for 30 years, and as Director, Audience Engagement at MCA Australia (Aug 2015 - May 2023) has given me tools that I can now draw upon as a consultant in Australia.

 

I’ve got form on this, running my own consultancy called lightsgoingon in the UK from 2011-15. In that time I worked with 25 organisations, from small galleries to larger museums, National Trust, District Councils and Arts Council England.

​For each museum, gallery and stately home that took part, their investment of time, planning, resources and leadership led to a better skilled, talkative, confident and happier workforce - which led to audience growth and greater visitor satisfaction. 

And since being in Australia, I’ve acted as a consultant to COCA (Centre of Contemporary Art), Christchurch, New Zealand, and City of Mandurah, Western Australia. 

Here's what I offer

Whatever programs, training, workshops or resources I deliver will be negotiated and crafted to suit your unique needs. 

Art and well-being
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ART AND
WELL-BEING

Featured artworks by artists Ebony Wightman and Jane Thatcher, in the We Are Studios show at Blacktown Arts Centre, October 2023. 

Museums and galleries are vital resources that, through connecting people to culture, help build a sense of identity and meaning, alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression, and connect people together to combat the epidemic of loneliness. 

​Cultural organisations have a crucial role to play in building our resilience and bringing us together, and in a world battered by bushfires, floods, the pandemic and economic hardship, we need them to be responsive and pro-active. When I was at the MCA, I oversaw a pilot six-month well-being program. Subsequent evaluation showed that participants felt safe, connected to the artwork, to the museum and to each other. 

I currently head up an international online art and well-being group, set up to share ideas, thoughts and case studies on working with audiences and well-being; and am currently advising Moderna Museet Malmö, Sweden on their pilot art and well-being approach.

I am keen to work directly with museum and gallery staff, to help them develop their own models of delivery around well-being. 

If you'd like to explore if and how I can help you and your team, get in touch for a 30-minute free initial conversation. 

Visitor Experience

Empowered and confident front-facing staff are vital to any cultural organisation, because they set the tone for visitors and are the face of the organisation.  

Based on research developed at Tate St Ives on a leadership placement, the dialogue-based training I deliver repositions visitors as active learners and participants. It's designed to shift gallery and museum staff into an increasingly conversational and empathetic role.  This training empowers invigilators, volunteers and front-of-house staff to find different ways in for visitors encountering contemporary art by looking at

  • how to frame better questions

  • how to use language that assists in understanding 

  • how to encourage open-ended conversations alongside information-giving, and

  • how to deal with tricky people.

I also consult about signage, marketing, and interpretation, along with developing resources to enhance the experience for the visitor.

Want to know more? Please contact me to set up a free 30-minute chat to look at how I can help.

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VISITOR EXPERIENCE TRAINING

Access and inclusion
Woman looks up in wonder at colour-stained material hanging from ceiling.

ACCESS AND INCLUSION

Image: Jacquie Manning.

Featured artwork: Lara Merrett, Paint me in (detail), 2018, synthetic polymer paint and ink on canvas, steel, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia for the Jackson Bella Room, 2018, image courtesy and © the artist 

Many cultural organisations have now got to grips with writing Disability Action Plans and /or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plans. Making spaces, events and talks accessible takes time and yes, money. At the same time, many organisations are at risk of not fully understanding the relevance and potential of really investing in making their work and their spaces truly accessible. 

Many changes that are made to accommodate different access requirements also benefit others (Universal Design). For example, an organisation that provides a Visual Story - a step-by-step guide for those who are neurodivergent to help plan their visit - finds that many others, such as international tourists, and those visiting for the first time, will also find this useful.

Around 1 in 6 (18%) people in Australia – or about 4.4 million – identifies with disability. This is a lot of people to not invest in. It’s time to celebrate disability and to move to cultural equity. Time to look at what cultural ableism is; time to put d/Deaf and disabled people at the centre of the conversation – as this conversation is moving quickly and is being heard.

I can help you do this. I have lived experience of being Hard of Hearing; plus seven years experience of leading on access plans for the MCA.

I have recently completed a Desktop Review commissioned by Creative Australia focusing on an Arts and Disability Needs Analysis and Audit, providing key insights into the critical service needs in the arts and disability sector in Australia. 

Audiene development

Audience development has been my wheelhouse for a long time; I've written many Audience Development Plans and Disability Action Plans, for Ikon Gallery, MCA Australia, Spike Print Studio, Tate St Ives and Thelma Hubert Gallery. 

Consultation with me around this would begin with a conversation to understand the context in which you need to retain or develop any kind of audience, and what we do from there would be designed for what you need. Maybe a short, sharp piece of analysis; or a more strategic approach that takes place across a longer period of time. 

We would look at (and this is just the start):

  • the reasons behind any kind of growth

  • leadership support

  • First Nations perspectives

  • d/Deaf and disabled communities

  • cultural diversity and inclusion, and more. 

 

We would always start from where you are. This kind of work can sometimes take a long time. 

Please email me so we can organise that free 30-minute conversation. 

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AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT

Woman speaking at a pedestal with microphone, in front of two screens, gesturing with right arm.

SPEAKING

Image: Liam Benson

Since 2011 I've been speaking on all aspects of art and audiences - nationally and internationally, in person and online.

Some of the conferences and seminars at which I've spoken are: The MONA Effect, Hobart, Tasmania (2015), Hong Kong 2019 Museum Summit on Addressing a Diverse Community and the EDI Forum, Naples, Italy on Art and Well-being. 

I actually love public speaking and on a range of topics including:

  • interpretation

  • accessibility

  • developing new audiences

  • successful public programs

  • the impact of creative learning

  • art and social justice

  • risk and play

  • using failure

  • creativity

  • criticality

  • navigating the experience of contemporary art

  • the value of art

  • art and well-being 

 

Contact me if you would like to chat about me speaking at your event or to your team.

Speaking

SOME WORDS FROM FORMER MCA DIRECTOR, ELIZABETH ANN MACGREGOR, OBE AM FRSN

'As Director, Audience Engagement at the MCA for almost eight years, Gill delivered a singular and dynamic vision. 

The wealth of knowledge and experience that she brought to the MCA and its audiences was a major factor in the MCA’s success.

Gill's work is exemplary. She is an extraordinary thinker, writer and researcher, delivering the highest standards in audience engagement, access and visitor experience.


Her passion and deep understanding of how artists think and work, matched by her expertise and remarkable ability to engage audiences of all ages was invaluable. Gill  brought international stature and reputation which benefitted the MCA, and indeed Australia.’

 

 

15 book spines showing titles about art theory, dialogue and contemporary art exhibitions.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY

I live and work on the unceded land of the Darug and Gundungurra Peoples.

I recognise and celebrate the histories, diversity, creativity, resourcefulness and endurance of the First Peoples of Australia – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

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