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WHAT’S ON: New display opening at the Bluecoat

WHAT’S ON:  New display opening at the Bluecoat

A new documentary display at the Bluecoat looks at how the Liverpool arts venue has engaged with the city and participated in wider public debates.
In these challenging times, the function of the arts in society is becoming increasingly valued, as well as put under scrutiny. Publicly-funded arts organisations are being challenged to develop new ways to engage with their audiences, to become more relevant to local communities, and to grow their civic role.

As the first arts centre in the UK, constituted in 1927, the Bluecoat has long engaged with Liverpool’s cultural and civic life, providing a home for artists, cultural societies, creative retailers, festivals, and a place for public discourse and social interaction.

The new exhibition, A Civic Role, reflects some of the ways in which the Bluecoat has strived to be more than simply a venue that presents art in its spaces. The material selected to tell this story is drawn from the arts centre’s archive – photos, film, posters, publications and other documents - and offers a glimpse at some of the key strands of the Bluecoat’s civic engagement.

This has taken place both within and beyond the building, interacting with local people in a variety of ways, such as artists’ interventions into the public realm, residencies by artists and academics, leading on debates, and a wide-ranging participation programme with communities.

A range of topics is covered in the exhibition around four themes:

  • Bluecoat’s contribution to public debate, starting with the study it commissioned from John Willett in the early 1960s, which was published in 1967 as Art in A City, a seminal work that was the first sociological study of art in a single place. While the building was closed for its capital development in 2007, the Bluecoat went on the road to local neighbourhoods to promote the Liverpool Debates, inviting local people to discuss hot topics of the day. And in 2011 it devised a programme, Liverpool, City of Radicals that interrogated the city’s radical credentials.
  • Bluecoat engaging with the city, through artists' interventions in the public realm, taking art out into the city in performances and installations in busy city shopping streets or on public monuments. Projects like Peter McRae’ Avenue of Heroes on the steps of St George’s Hall, Mandy Romero’s Queen of Culture during the construction upheaval of Liverpool One, or Richard Dedomenici impersonating Boris Johnson apologising to Liverpool, are represented in photos. While, at the arts centre, Bed-In at the Bluecoat recreated John & Yoko’s famous action for peace, restaged as a series of daily interventions by local people using a bed in the Bluecoat space.

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