Margate’s modern gallery occupies the site of the boarding house where JMW Turner stayed and painted in the 1820s and 1830s.
Being ten years in the planning gave the team time to build strong links with local people and schools, with the aims of making great art accessible and relevant to all and acting as a cultural catalyst for local economic renewal.
Having attracted a variety of people of all ages to the gallery, the next logical step was to involve local people in curating an exhibition. Our grant was for two such projects. First, the 25 strong local Studio Group commissioned and co-created an installation for the gallery’s large two story space. The second, which culminated in the Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ exhibition, marked the anniversary of T. S. Eliot’s stay in Margate, where he wrote much of the eponymous poem. The delivery of Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ took the model of co-produced exhibitions to a new level, with a Research Group of up to 60 local people developing a high profile show in the main gallery space, with 40 associated off site events. This was a challenging but in the end a highly successful project.
The Studio Group commission was so popular it was extended twice. Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ garnered excellent reviews, with no trade-off between public involvement and the creation of a high quality show.
The request focused on curatorial skills, which is at the heart of the Museums and Galleries Fund and was innovating in audience-led curation; plans to share the experience and convene others with similar interests brought additional value.