Source & Space at Tate Britain

What can we learn from a display and a social space by and for younger visitors?

Tate Collective London curated Source, the first collection display co-curated by young people at Tate Britain, and Space, the first social space created by young people for young people, in 2014.

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What were our aims and what have we learned from previous activities? Tate and Tate Collective have been successful in attracting a diverse group of young visitors to special events and activities, even leading to having to close Tate Britain because an event went over capacity. So events are great in reaching younger visitors and getting people to visit for the first time. However, we also realised that first-time visits can turn out to be one-time visits while our vision is to make young people feel they can be part of Tate and Tate can be part of their everyday life, not just when special events are on. Therefore we want to go beyond singular events and find ways to attract younger visitors to the gallery on a day-to-day basis. We knew we had to provide something a bit different yet part of the regular Tate offer and the idea came up to develop a collection display and a social space (that much we had learned from our events) with Tate Collective.

So – what did the visitors to the spaces think? We conducted research with visitors of Source as well as of Space to find out more[1]. There were a lot of wonderful reactions to both spaces. At the same time there are things we can do better and we are discussing how we can use these findings for future projects and how this can inform our practice.

Source exhibition opening, April late at Tate 2014

Overall both Source and Space had a positive impact on the image of Tate Britain among respondents as an accessible, evolving and forward thinking organisation, supporting British art (young artists, curators) and reaching out to young and diverse audiences and giving them a voice in the museum as well as reflecting their experiences.

Good thing that they have Tate Collective, especially for young people, it makes me feel appreciated, makes me feel there is something for me here. The fact that they are thinking of our age group”.

The quantitative data showed that Source and Space attracted a younger audience and more ethnically diverse audience than usual at Tate Britain. Satisfaction was strong across all age groups showing that what young people like is of broader appeal and not a limitation – with some exceptions – and has the potential to give a positive message about young people to other visitors.

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Visitors were very positive about the visual impact of Source: It provided a different experience in Tate Britain and a thought-provoking display that was historically grounded while relating to the present.

It looks like it is relevant to us. It is like a mirror talking back to us… normal, urban view, the everyday life, the interactive parts.”

There clearly is potential for a space for young people at Tate to meet their social needs and create more of a destination.

Seems out of place for a gallery. It is a good thing, I like to spend time to sit in galleries. There is never a place where you can sit and if you do so for a long time you feel self-conscious. There are not many indoor spaces in London that do not require anything from you.”

The challenge is to develop a more distinct look and feel that young people love while it appeals less to other audiences. We should not be shy in providing more information and pointers for young people how to engage with art and Tate in the space and give it more of a function of connecting users with Tate.

“Maybe stuff like information on ways you can get involved more with the gallery as a young person. I thought you had to have a connection with people who own the gallery to get involved here. They have to advertise it more… like joining youth clubs”

A key improvement area is raising awareness and visibility, both spaces were supposed to be woven into the regular Tate Britain offer, but as such turned out to be a bit hidden.

Source exhibition opening, April late at Tate 2014

The most rewarding insight was that during the research conversations the words important and self were used frequently by respondents, indicating that we connected with them on a deeper level. The spaces provided opportunities for self-expression and collaboration and thus the development of self-worth; opportunities to access to the collection and to learn, leading to self-development.

“Good idea to give the message that art and museums are not only for few people, everyone is welcome not only to look but also to work and collaborate. Young people want to help and want to feel that what they are doing is important. Would be nice to find a way to give the chance to people to express themselves and let them feel important. If you make a person to feel important, they would trust you and would want to come to you.”

“Would like to see great things but also work on my own development. It is positive ego boosting. It feels good for educational purposes and also my own psychological wellbeing. I take care of my own development. I would like to be well rounded person able to talk about art and music and this is how I am trying to achieve it.”

by Sabine Doolin, Audience Research and Insight Manager, Tate

 


[1] We used a mixed methodology of quantitative (gathering data and numbers) and qualitative (in-depth open conversations) research; fieldwork took place June-Sep. 2014. We talked to visitors of all ages, but we put a special focus on what younger visitors thought. The research was conducted by Sphere Insights (Angela Diakopoulou).

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