MK Gallery is recognised as Fantastic for Families - Destination Milton Keynes
MK Gallery is recognised as Fantastic for Families

MK Gallery is recognised as Fantastic for Families

MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, has been shortlisted for two Fantastic for Families Awards 2021 which are being held this year to celebrate outstanding contribution to family-friendly arts and culture during the pandemic.

It is the Gallery’s Art and Us Sensory Boxes delivery initiative that has been recognised by the Family Arts Campaign, who are the organisers of the awards. The initiative was rolled out during the national lockdowns to local families who have children with complex support needs.

The pandemic was particularly hard on these families and unfortunately due to the lockdowns the Gallery had to suspend all in-person Art and Us family sessions. To continue working remotely with the families the Inclusion team devised ‘Sensory Boxes’ to be safely delivered to family homes. The boxes were created by Art and Us artists who carefully designed activities to suit the individual family’s creative interests and access requirements. Artists also produced bespoke supporting videos for each box, to both introduce themselves and offer suggestions or starting points on how to approach and use the included materials. The videos provided real-life connection between families and artists from afar.

From February to July 2021 the team, working with 12 associate artists, delivered 79 sensory boxes to 18 of the Gallery’s Art and Us families.The feedback from the families proved how hugely positive the monthly sensory boxes were:

‘The boxes have been the next best thing to attending in person sessions, and each month ‘box day’ (when they are delivered) has been one of the very few highlights during lockdown.’

‘The boxes have been really considerate. The artist videos which accompany each box have enabled the boys to feel connected to known/new artists, and they have given suggested structure to encourage the boys’ creative minds to flourish independently at home.’

‘One of the boxes made us cry, it was obvious how much the artist had thought about my son and who he is.’

Jemima Senior, MK Gallery Inclusion Coordinator said:
‘As recognition for this important and positively impactful initiative we are delighted to be shortlisted for two Fantastic for Families Awards. The sensory boxes have successfully engaged participants ranging from 5-18 years old who experience a variety of access requirements in relation to neuro diversity, disability and sensory impairment including children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and autistic children. Activities ranged from rocket-building, papermaking, to even organising a glow in the dark disco in the living room!

‘We’ve loved receiving images and videos from families enjoying the boxes and are looking forward to continuing this at-home experience which encourages young people to act, communicate and express themselves in the ways they find most meaningful.’

MK Gallery has been shortlisted for The Audience Impact & Innovation Award which recognises the achievements of creative organisations or cultural event organisers who have demonstrated innovation and adaptability to make a difference to families in need during the pandemic; and the Best Family Arts Activity Award which focuses on family arts activities delivered during the Covid-19 pandemic – both digital and non-digital approaches, delivered remotely or in person.

Anna Dever, Head of Family Arts Campaign said:
‘After such a challenging year, the Fantastic for Families Awards are a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the creativity, innovation and resilience that the arts and cultural sector has shown during the pandemic. The organisations nominated, and all those who applied, are wonderful examples of how creativity and cultural engagement can bring joyful moments of collaboration and connectivity in difficult times.’

Tonya Nelson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said:
‘Culture and creativity have helped uplift, entertain and unite families of all backgrounds and ages over the course of the pandemic. This is largely thanks to our country’s great cultural organisations and individual creatives who, during this challenging time, have embraced new opportunities to innovate and adapt their activities to safely reach audiences. Many with support from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
We’re so pleased that this year’s Fantastic for Families Awards are able to recognise some of this brilliant work and we’d like to congratulate all organisations recognised on the shortlist.’

Art and Us is an inclusive ‘whole-family’ programme embedded within MK Gallery’s learning offer which provides bespoke art activities for children aged 5+ with complex needs. Generous funding from MK Community Foundation and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation enables MK Gallery to continue and expand its Inclusive Practice in the Arts programming for local families with children with complex support needs. The programme, which began in 2017, has been extended by an additional four years due to additional funding received in early 2021. The success of and need for the original programme is demonstrated by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from families and a growing waiting list.