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Ort Gallery: A relationship between art, community and adult education

Galleries can provide an environment for social cohesion, cultural understanding and development of lifelong learning. The impact of which can be greatest felt within local communities whereby the population are from multi-faith and ethnic backgrounds. Such community projects include Ort Gallery Women's and Family workshops within Balsall Heath, Birmingham.

Elonaphotographer Ort Gallery workshop

Carousel and header photograph by Elonaphotographer

Galleries can provide an environment for social cohesion, cultural understanding and development of lifelong learning. The impact of which can be greatest felt within local communities whereby the population are from multi-faith and ethnic backgrounds.

Ort Gallery is an artist-led exhibition space in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, with the social mission to facilitate dialogue in the community. Through a variety of ways; workshops, poetry events and talks, the community is very much a part of the project; ensuring that the art-work is not just shown but lived.

Working with socially engaged internationally acclaimed artists; Paul O’Kane, Leah Gordon and Pil and Galia Kollectiv, to name a few, Ort Gallery’s curatorial programme brings world-class art to an area lacking cultural activity and engages  the audience in a meaningful way. The artists represent the diversity of people in the immediate area, promoting community cohesion and raising the profile of Balsall Heath, an area considered a deprived neighbourhood.

Free weekly craft workshops for women and families, funded through Birmingham City Council, bring together a variety of audiences from multiple faiths and ethnic backgrounds. The women’s workshops, hosted every Friday morning, mainly see the participation of women who are unemployed, stay at home mums and retirees.  Participants are of all ages and come from a diverse range of backgrounds with a large proportion of those with a Muslim faith and from a Black or Asian British background. The workshops are facilitated by professional artists who themselves are from diverse backgrounds, allowing the participants to relate and connect with the artist.

‘…we teach the women skills in these workshops from knitting to printing …bringing together different faith groups, from different ethnicities, from different classes and allowing people to meet each other sharing experiences, make new friends in a very safe environment that has no agenda’

Josephine Reichert, Ort Gallery Director

The women’s craft workshops promote lifelong learning; developing social and practical skills in a neutral environment that allows a better understanding between people.

Community cohesion is an important factor when addressing social inequalities and the learning environment that Ort Gallery provides helps to remove the label of stereotypes and the issues that arise from misconception. As the participants learn new skills, such as crochet or mehndi, they get to meet others and talk. It’s a safe and open environment allowing the women to feel comfortable to explore each other’s cultures. The result, taken from surveys, is that many of the women feel more confident to go out and access other services, feel more connected to their neighbourhood and learn new skills all at the same time.

The interaction between community and artists allows a platform for dialogue, building the experience of the adult learner trainers, sharing skills and promoting lifelong learning. The workshops are a great way to tap into new community groups that are harder to reach and to allow for more first time gallery goers to access the services available.

Ort Gallery has great ambitions of developing these groups further, engaging them in many more events and promoting social cohesion through their work.

You can find out more about Ort Gallery’s community work and workshops by visiting their website. There are further opportunities to find out more; keep an eye out on the platform for our interview with Ort Gallery Director Josephine Reichert and professional artist Famina Bi.

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