Fantastic for Families Award 2020 nomination

Glynn Vivian Art Gallery:
Broadening our appeal to families across Swansea

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, reopened after an extended period of redevelopment in 2016. Now it’s one of five UK venues to be shortlisted for this year’s Best Family Venue category.

During our redevelopment period in 2016, and up to the present day, the Glynn Vivian team have worked to widen our reach and broaden our appeal to families across Swansea through a range of exciting projects and initiatives.

While offsite and working from a small space in a local YMCA building we had the opportunity to re-evaluate what the gallery meant to the people of Swansea. We offered a diverse range of creative workshops for families and children on weekends and during holiday periods. We also developed an extensive outreach programme working with local schools, projects and community centres as a way of engaging a wider range of audiences. Crucially the number and variety of these workshops enabled us to talk to local families, to listen to their needs, to find out who we were not getting through to and to plan our future provision accordingly.

The development created a number of important changes to the building that made it more welcoming and fully accessible, including the facilities that families require to make their visit as easy as possible. A new lift means that the public can now get to every floor within the gallery, and improved baby changing facilities, changing rooms and a new café allow visitors to enjoy an extended stay at the gallery knowing that they have everything they need to support them.

Even when events are not taking place families of all ages have plenty to do when they arrive

We continued our weekend and holiday provision for families but were now able to add significantly to our offer and expand our audiences further. We created a new programme for parents and carers of pre-school children, a dedicated family offer aimed at welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, an Arts Award qualification for children outside of formal education and a Community Panel where we can hear directly from participants and external parties. Within the gallery we created a space specifically aimed at families with bespoke sensory and explorer backpacks, a HaveYourSay magnet board and an ambitious expanded self-led offer with everything from funsheets to giant interactive sculptural/play projects. This means that even when events are not taking place families of all ages have plenty to do when they arrive.
As we have developed our family provision we have learned the importance of continuing to engage with new audiences. We have learned the importance of continual consultation to help us improve our provision and accessibility. We have learned the importance of intergenerational engagement in the provisions we offer. And we are always aware that more can be done to break down barriers to engagement. Most importantly, we have learned to listen.

Early positive experiences give ownership of the gallery and all it can offer to each individual

Our Halloween Special is a good example of our approach to learning and participation. It was an all-day event so we planned for multiple interconnected activities to overlap. This meant you could take a break from the bustle of the activity in our atrium space, and relax in different spaces throughout the gallery or watch the free family film on the big screen. New arrivals could learn basic textile cutting, stitching and colouring skills to create their costumes, others were designing masks and accessories from household junk. We had a smaller room that served as a quieter play space for families with sensory needs, and a UV “freakout” room where the young people could see their costumes come to life in floor to ceiling mirrors. The culmination of the day was a family friendly Monster Mash disco, where everyone was able to get down to some creepy classics. The variety of options for families meant that for children and parents young and old, there was the chance to make, create, eat, dance and play, collaborate and hang out together.

Families are key to our existence as early positive experiences give ownership of the gallery and all it can offer to each individual. Being shortlisted for the award for best family venue is an opportunity to share our story with a wider audience, and also validates all the work which has led up to this point. We have always sought to create inventive and exciting opportunities that bring families together in the joy of the creative process in the belief that, as our founder puts it, Art Changes Lives. We would like to use this opportunity to engage more audiences across the area. The Fantastic For Families logo and ethos is an instant and visible recommendation to families that the space is theirs, and that they are welcome.

Aerial view of families crafting with various fabrics
What’s next?

At Glynn Vivian Art Gallery we have had to adapt quickly to a changing society and plan with flexibility for an uncertain future. We have been able to adapt our family offer to a multi-platform online provision in lockdown including live workshops, video workshops, worksheets, phone, email feedback and working alongside food banks to deliver creative packs to families. This summer we have been delivering a workshop booklet and art pack to families without access to art materials as part of our Six Weeks of Summer art project. We are currently looking to continue this approach with a view to a blended learning and engagement environment in the new year. In many ways this experience has helped us realise the potential of a multi-platform approach and has opened up our engagement to a wider audience.

20 August 2020


An adult person explains a portrait painting to a group of children

Dr Richard Monahan is Learning Assistant at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery is a council operated art venue showcasing the best international, national and local art from around the world. Richard leads targeted workshop programmes for adults and children. Richard has been instrumental in the development of our family offer, creating popular activities and events for families.

Other resources that might interest you

20 August 2020