What We Offer – Galleries & Museums

Our interventions in art galleries focus on common issues, like breaking down barriers to engagement, building confidence in expressing opinions about contemporary art, and exploring how galleries can be more accessible, fun and welcoming to everyone.

“The Art Doctors were an excellent addition to the evening opening as part of Botanics Late. They were able to communicate with the audience at exactly the right pitch, and as a result audience members spent longer engaging with the exhibition and considering individual artworks more closely.”
BAS8 Curator, Inverleith House, Edinburgh – Summer 2016

Our interventions in museums focus on activities that deepen visitors’ understanding and connection with the collection. We encourage conscious looking in many of our activities, whether for museum exhibits, on nature walks or at things we take for granted around our houses. Conscious looking in museums can then lead to creative and personal responses inspired by historical or scientific exhibits.

“Really enjoyed the session today… it’s the most creative and educated my family have been together through the whole summer holidays!”
“My children really enjoyed themselves, they were completely consumed in the activities and it brought the museum to life.”
Visitors to Thackray Museum of Medicine family activities – Summer 2021

We engage with members of the public and start a conversation around their attitudes and feelings towards art and culture, we then prescribe pieces of work and/or activities for patients to consider as they explore the gallery or museum.

Anyone feeling worried or unconfident could also be prescribed a cushion and/or a blanket to help with anything challenging, to sit down with or even have a nap if they feel the need.

​​”The cushion made the whole thing work for me. I felt part of the show. This was like my little installation. So it was protecting me and also made me feel for some reason as though… it was like a security blanket. A security cushion! I think we should probably offer them to everyone, because it’s difficult in there, especially for me.”
Visitor to BAS8 at Leeds Art Gallery – October 2015

In addition to the prescriptions detailed above, we can also deliver takeover days where we work with staff, and community partners where appropriate, to deliver a range of activities around art, creativity and mental wellbeing. This could include creative activities, challenges, facilitated discussions and performances. For example at Leeds Art Gallery we made slippers to see if wearing them made us feel more ‘at home’ in the gallery, worked with volunteers on mini art chats around specific works, created music playlists for different galleries and led a march/parade at the end of the day to engage visitors in the works on display.

“Loved it! Looking at the Fiona Rae painting for three minutes particularly opened our eyes. Even though I went to art school, I often don’t give certain works the ‘time of day’ and I was particularly surprised by my reaction to a piece after three minutes. It changed dramatically and I liked/appreciated different elements much more!”
Leeds Arts Gallery Takeover Day participant – November 2018

“Two friends came in, one who’d never been in the gallery. One said she wanted to see some black faces so I prescribed Lubaina Himid’s piece on the portrait wall. They were still there 40 minutes later and had gathered a crowd. Other gallery-goers were listening in to their conversation and chipping in their own thoughts.”
Feedback on Leeds Art Gallery Takeover Day from Junior Art Doctor

We can work with community groups within the institution or at their own location. This more focused work may include more detailed or long term prescriptions, facilitated discussions where art is the starting point for conversations, and workshops that develop creative activities inspired by the gallery or museum exhibits.

“It was a pleasure working with the Art Doctors on their response to Justin Fitzpatrick’s exhibition Alpha Salad. The time spent exploring the show generated some really thoughtful ways of looking-again at the works and considering how our own bodies and feelings sat amongst them. The generous responses provided real food for thought as to how we interpret exhibitions at The Tetley.”
Toby Kilby-Pollard, Programme Coordinator, The Tetley

We develop a relationship with a group and explore any barriers they may have to engaging with the institution, which may include individual or group prescriptions for works or exhibits and follow-up discussions to explore responses. For example, at Leeds Art Gallery we worked with Arts and Minds Network members to discuss nature-themed works in the collection and to develop their own creative responses in preparation for a potential exhibition.

“Working with the Art Doctors is always lots of fun! They are brilliant practitioners who bring out the best in people. I’ve worked on a number of projects with the them, from making felt slippers and sliding around the gallery floors to chilling out on beanbags discussing 20th Century British Art and dancing in silent discos around our gallery spaces! The Art Doctors really listen to our Youth Collective members during our sessions and create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. I would highly recommend working in partnership with them and look forward to future collaborations”
Angie Thompson, Youth Engagement Curator, Leeds Art Gallery

We can support staff and/or volunteer development by offering training sessions in the Art Doctor ethos and methodology. This could enable public-facing staff to develop their skills and confidence in talking to visitors and to feel less like Art Police. Or we can also train individuals to become registered Art Doctors, able to prescribe, facilitate conversations and deliver activities with continued support from us.

The Art Doctors worked with our volunteers and staff members to explore any anxieties or barriers they felt around having conversations with visitors, particularly where they didn’t feel like experts. They created a fun, relaxed and safe environment for everyone to share any thoughts and concerns and I was impressed with how they used creativity to open up discussions and make them easier to have. The volunteers in particular felt a lot more confident in their role as a result of their time with the Art Doctors.
Sarah Brown, Principle Keeper, Leeds Art Gallery

More about Art Doctors