Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Pop Up Galleries - a future for empty shops

The "Love Keighley" Gallery was an empty shop project devised by the Arts Factory working in partnership with The Keighley Town Centre Association.

14.7% of the retail units in the UK are lying empty and Keighley is no exception.  Stepping out of the bus station, visitors are immediately faced with a row of empty shops and feel they could be in any town. The pop up gallery tapped into the Love Keighley initiative with the window vinyls, posters and publicity mirroring the branding.  The Airedale Shopping Centre's offer of an empty shop made the ideal gallery for the annual Open Art exhibition. 

The Yorkshire Open is a showcase of visual art held annually at The Arts Factory. By moving the exhibition to an empty shop visitor numbers increased by a staggering 751 with just under 1000 people entering the gallery.  200 free promotional bags were given away and £130.60 raised on behalf of Manorlands, a local hospice. But it wasn't all plain sailing....

Setting up a pop up gallery entails a lot of hard work, planning and can sometimes be frustrating. It was freezing, particularly when it snowed (!) and there was no water so no toilet or cups of tea. 

But it was extremely effective for marketing the Arts Factory and raising awareness of what the gallery does.  Visitors ranged from pensioners to unemployed teenagers, artists to shoppers and everyone had a favourite picture.   The gallery was alive with colour and displaying the sheep from the Shorn Keighley Project drew the public to the windows. 

Displaying the art brought its own problems - I panicked that we would have too much work and not enough wall space. Luckily, this was not the case because we hung the show to look more like the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with less white wall space than we are used to. 

A total of 40 Yorkshire artists displayed 93 pieces of work between them, ranging from traditional to contemporary, textiles to photographs.  Visitors came from Hull, Sheffield, York and Leeds but mostly Keighley and Bradford.  The gallery was open six days a week for three weeks and 16 volunteers covered 32 of the total 76 hours that we were open.   Would I do it again? I can't wait!

If you would like to find out how to set up a pop up gallery please contact Artists in Business and we will send you a free PDF instruction leaflet. 

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