Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Staging a community art exhibition

kew_1For Kew’s Travel Treasures exhibition, local community groups and special needs schools created artworks inspired by the life and work of botanical artist Marianne North.

The Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens houses more than 800 paintings of plants produced by the Victorian naturalist and artist during her travels across five continents. In 2010, to mark the completion of a major restoration of the gallery, Kew’s community engagement team teamed up with the Orleans House Gallery in Richmond to put on an exhibition of community art.

“We invited local community groups and schools to workshops where they could discover more about Marianne North’s work and explore the themes of travel and journeys, plants and memories,” says Gail Bromley, Head of Community Outreach at Kew. “People of all ages embraced the chance to work with local artists to make their own art. The work produced was highly creative and personal and made for a fascinating exhibition.”

Engaging diverse audiences

Working on a Travel Treasures project © RBG KewKew’s Avenue Club, a social club for older people, and the Asian Women’s Centre in Hounslow both got involved in the project by creating handmade books that interpreted a journey that they had made. Individuals from Feltham Arts Association produced colourful landscapes using merino wool, taking inspiration from their memories of their favourite places or exotic places they’d visited.

Young people from local special needs schools and after-school clubs also took part in the project. Students from Marjory Kinnon School invented their own tropical plants using clay, and took photographs of the plants that had inspired them in Kew’s Princess of Wales Conservatory.

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