The Clore Learning Studio: The Story so far…


Staff on a visit to the new learning studio at Whitworth Art Gallery. Photography by Steven Roper


The learning studio will look out over the gallery’s new art garden. Photography by Steven Roper

This year the Whitworth Art Gallery is closed as we undergo dramatic redevelopment work to create bigger, better spaces to house our collection and for our visitors to enjoy. As part of the redevelopment process a new studio space, funded by the Clore Duffield Foundation, is being built for the Learning department to operate. The studio will be the focus of the learning team’s programmes when the gallery reopens later this year, and as such it has been specially designed to encourage a wealth of creative activity in all age groups.

As we reach the half way point in the Whitworth’s building programme it seems like the perfect time to take a look at how the new studio is coming along. On a recent site visit the team was able to get an idea of what the studio would look like.

The studio is located by the park side entrance of the gallery, meaning it is ideally located for access to the collection and the natural inspiration of Whitworth Park. The long shape of the room and openness of the space mean that the studio can easily be adapted for different needs. Whether being used by primary schools for messy arts, or as a safe exploring space for culturebabies, the studio is a welcoming and responsive place for creative learning.

The large glass doors along one side of the studio open onto our central outdoor space, where an art garden will soon be developed. This feature makes the room a versatile space, blurring the boundaries between where nature ends and art begins.

Watching the studio come to life is an exciting experience for all of us on the learning team, and we can’t wait for our visitors to enjoy the space with us.


Playing with Studios: Atelier Public#2 at Goma


Example of the work in Atelier Public#2. Image owned by Glasgowmuseums


Example of the work in Atelier Public#2. Image owned by Glasgowmuseums


Example of the work in Atelier Public#2. Image owned by Glasgowmuseums

The Whitworth Art Gallery Learning team are exploring the ways that they can use their new Clore learning studio when the Whitworth reopens in October this year. One element of education that is particularly important to the Whitworth is learning through play and as a result the concept is used frequently in our culturebabies and toddlertasticsessions.

Playing offers children important opportunities to develop their imagination and creativity, whilst group play helps children develop their social skills. The Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art has explored these concepts further and recently opened their latest exhibition Atelier Public#2. The exhibition runs for 4 months and sees the gallery space at Goma handed over to both children and adults for creative play. This is the second time the gallery has run the project, as their first exhibition in 2011 was so successful. The gallery provides visitors with materials to create their own works of art, which they can then install within the space as they see fit. Over the course of the exhibition the gallery is constantly transformed according to the creative decisions made by its visitors.

For Producer Curator Katie Bruce the project offers an opportunity to research the relationship between imaginative play and art institutions. By creating works of art for exhibition in a public gallery, visitors are not only able to express themselves creatively but also participate in a social activity by displaying their art alongside others. Similarly visitors can gain inspiration from others, even adding to or developing artworks that have already been created by their peers. The project therefore demonstrates the possibilities for community engagement that the arts present.

Half way through the project a destruction event has been arranged, where visitors can take part in removing objects in the Atelier Public#2 gallery to make way for new projects. Again there is a collaborative approach being practised here, as the community make way for new creative opportunities together.

The Atelier Public#2 project at Goma shows that providing spaces for creative play in public art galleries can help develop a community spirit and encouraging social interaction through artistic means. The success of the project in Glasgow is great inspiration for the learning team at the Whitworth. Our learning studio will provide a unique space for playing within the art galley, and allow us to promote the themes of social engagement and community participation that are so important to the gallery.

Michael Brennand-Wood, Textile artist


Artwork by Michael Brennand-Wood featured in the Whitworth’s Tactile Textile collection

Artwork by Michael Brennand-Wood featured in the Whitworth’s Tactile Textile collection

Michael Brennand-Wood in his studio. Photograph by Phil Sayer

Michael Brennand-Wood in his studio. Photograph by Phil Sayer


In preparation for the opening of the Clore Studio at the Whitworth Art Gallery this year, the Whitworth’s learning team are investigating how different artists in the collection use their studio spaces.

Michael Brennand-Wood is an internationally acclaimed textile artist whose work has been exhibited across the globe and features both in the Whitworth’s collection and our Tactile Textile educational resource. Brennand-Wood is known for his original use of traditional textile techniques and motifs, for example using floral embroidery processes to produce three dimensional mixed media pieces.

Below Michael answers some questions about how he uses his studio, focusing in particular on the impact that physical space has on his art works.

1.     How often do you use your studio? And how long have you been based there?

It depends on my schedule but on average 5-6 days a week. I do try to be there, most days and if not, I work in my studio at home. The studio I rent, I’ve had since 1994.

2.     How do you organise your studio? Are you methodical in the layout of your materials and equipment, or is practicality necessary in a creative space?

The problem with studios is storing either materials or finished artwork. I have a storage facility to house completed works in. I have a working studio area that enables a long view to see semi-completed work on a wall. Materials are stored in plastic boxes in order, paint and fabric in cupboards.

3.     Does your studio influence your practice? Or vice versa?

I’ve always found that residencies affect the work more through physical working space than locality. A good studio definitely imparts a positive vibe! It’s my creative home a private place to do whatever I please.

4.     Is your studio somewhere you go to feel inspired? Or are you inspired elsewhere and use your studio to respond to the inspiration?

Yes the studios inspiring, I am someone who believes in the importance of thinking through making, it’s therefore important I’m around the building blocks of creativity. Other places obviously inspire but the studio funnels and synthesises those experiences into a creative reality.

5.     Is your studio a place where you are experimental with your work? Or is your work in the studio where you produce a finalised idea?

I’m very experimental; I don’t much care for signature pieces. I’m an explorer of visual territories, it’s important for me to put myself at a creative risk. The studio is therefore the laboratory where things happen and ideas are processed.

6.     Do you share your studio with anyone else, and does this influence your work there?

No and I wouldn’t.

7.     Is your studio a reflective and intimate space? Or a social and productive space?

The studio is a productive, reflective and working, intimate space. It’s only ever social when a friend or client visits.

8.     Is your perception of your work the same in the confines of the studio as it is outside it?

No work changes in relation to space, exhibition venues impart their own influences as to how a work is approached. Work outside the studio can appear very different, as you remove the real time continuum. Works can be shown alongside pieces that were made early or later. Unexpected relationships occur and you can find, new connections and starting points.




The studio as exhibition part two: The Bluecoat, Site Gallery and Tate


Julien Le Sehan, Gallery One Global Studio Project, The Bluecoat. 2010. Photography by Denise Courcoux

The learning team at the Whitworth Art Gallery will soon be moving into the Clore learning studio at the newly redeveloped gallery, and in preparation we have been looking at the different ways studio spaces can be used to inspire creativity and learning. This week we will again be looking at how studios can become the subjects of gallery exhibitions, taking a particular look at the different interpretations of the topic that have been offered by Northern galleries over the last few years.

In 2010 The Bluecoat in Liverpool hosted an exhibition called Global Studio which highlighted the  international artists networks that Liverpool is part of. The Bluecoat is an institution that is proud of its status as a creative hub where artists can create, as well as exhibit, their work and therefore the Global studios exhibition offered the gallery an opportunity to showcase its role as a site of creative practice. The gallery did this by using their exhibition space as a studio, where artists involved in the project could work under the gaze of the visitors, creating artworks for the exhibition. The space was used at different times by both by local and visiting artists, either individually or collectively, demonstrating the versatility of studios and how they can be adapted to suit the needs of many people. The exhibition also became part of the Bluecoat’s outreach programme, with the studio being used by adults with learning disabilities who took part in creative workshops, highlighting that studios can be a place of creative learning and social activity, as well as artistic production.

An exhibition earlier this year at the Site Gallery in Sheffield explored similar themes. The Artist Proposes saw the gallery’s exhibition space become a studio for five artists in residence, who used the public exposure of the exhibition to develop their projects with feedback from observers. The exhibition not only made the creative practice of the artist an art work in itself, it also allowed visitors to participate in the artistic processes, allowing them to interact with the gallery and the artist’s studio in a unique way.

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Photo of Piet Mondrian in his studio. Paris, 2/11/33. Photo from Elout Drabbe collection.

Later this year Tate Liverpool will be hosting an exhibition called Mondrian and his Studios, which will feature a reconstruction of the artist’s Paris studio by architect Frans Postma. Mondrian’s studio was legendary among artists and critics during the 1920s as the space and his artworks began to merge; his iconic aesthetic adorning his studio walls as well as his canvases. Mondrian also had studios in Amsterdam and New York, where the physical environment of the space similarly influenced his artistic production. For him it was important that his artwork be linked to the site of its creation. As a result Tate Liverpool considers it important to gain an insight into the  surroundings in which Mondrian produced his stylised paintings, in order to better understand the meaning of his work.

Here we can see that there are various reasons why a gallery would choose to shape an exhibition around the theme of artist’s studios. Whether they are used to highlight the active role a gallery plays in creating art, turn creative practice into an art form itself or provide insight into the work of a specific artist, studio’s offer a great medium through which a gallery can interpret creativity.

The Studio as exhibition part one: Bacon and Brancusi


Constantin Brancusi’s Studio, The Pompidou Centre, Paris

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7 Reece Mews Francis Bacon Studio. Photograph: Perry Ogden
Collection: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS

This week the Whitworth’s learning team are looking at the ways artist’s studios have been used as gallery installations, in our aim to explore the possibilities of studio spaces.

The studio of a popular artist in our collection, Francis Bacon , has become well known as pieces of art in its own right. Bacon’s 7 Reece Mews studio was painstakingly mapped and removed from its original setting in London before being recreated within the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

Another well known artist whose studio now resides within an art gallery is Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian sculptor whose Parisian studio was relocated to the grounds of the Pompidou Centre after his death, where a custom built home was created which allowed Brancusi’s studio to be accurately preserved and enjoyed by the public.

The reconstructed studios not only give us an insight into where the artists worked but also how they liked to be creative. Bacon’s chaotic studio reflects the artist’s vivacious nature and aggressive creative style. Flashes of paint adorn the walls and door where Bacon reportedly liked to mix his paint, and the floor is littered with materials and the pages of books from which Bacon took his inspiration. A central easel under a skylight shows us that Bacon liked to paint in natural light, and a number of drawings found in the studio have provided an insight into how the artist developed his paintings.

In contrast Brancusi’s studio is much more serene and reflects the sculptor’s interests in minimalist forms. The light filled space is full of the artists sculptural creations and the handmade furniture upon which he worked. His tools are organised at one side of the gallery, next to a basic fireplace, and the atmosphere is one of tranquility and simplicity, an ethos that Brancusi aimed to embody within his work. He chose to leave the contents of his studio to the French state, on the understanding that it would be recreated for visitors to see, allowing them to view his sculpture in their original context.

By looking at the preserved studio spaces of two very different artists we can see that a studio is not simply the place where an artist works. It is also an extension of their creativity and a space that responds to their personality and artistic style. Studios are responsive to their users, and as such they are integral to the creative process.

House of Artists, Gugging


View of Artist’s Studio, House of Artists, Gugging. 2013. Photography by James Hutchinson.

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Johann Hauser (1926-1996) Untitled. Musgrave Kinley collection, Whitworth Art Gallery

In preparation for the opening of the new Clore Learning Studio Space at the Whitworth Art Gallery the learning team have been taking inspiration from the ways in which artists in the Whitworth Collection have interpreted studio spaces. This week we have been looking at an example from the collection that demonstrates the powerful impact that creative practice has on well-being.

Outsider Art is a title given to work by artists who don’t have formal art training and who represent marginalised groups in society. The genre has particular relevance to the Whitworth after we were gifted the Musgrave Kinley collection in 2010, comprising over 1000 works by outsider artists. One example from the collection is by Johann Hauser (1926-1996). Hauser moved to the pychiatric hospital of Klostemeuberg, Austria in the late 1940s. The psychiatrist. Dr Leo Navratil, began working at the institution in 1954 and supported the patients to make art. In 1981 Hauser, along with 17 other patients, was moved to a separate accommodation in the clinic in 1981. This separate accommodation still exists today as the House of Artists at Gugging, where there is now a museum and gallery showing exhibitions and works from their collection.

The intention of the facility at Gugging is to provide a means of creative and professional output for residents, who are viewed as being artists who have psychiatric needs, rather than patients. The institution does not give the artists instructions or guidelines for their work, they are simply provided with materials and a studio space, allowing their creativity to run free. As a result the House of Artists is bursting with artistic activity, from large scale projects to spontaneous doodles on paper, furniture and even the walls of the buildings. For the institution, the psychiatric conditions of the artists are part of their artistic character, informing their creative practice and output. The process of working in the studio alongside others and being recognised as a professional artist is an important part of caring for the well being of the residents, promoting their self expression and boosting their self esteem.

Lynn Setterington: Textile Artist

Lynn Setterington. This piece made of recycled materials is included in the Whitworth Art Gallery's TACTILE textile handling resource.

Lynn Setterington. This piece made of recycled materials is included in the Whitworth Art Gallery’s TACTILE textile handling resource.

Leading up to the Whitworth Art Gallery’s reopening, our Learning and Engagement team is preparing to move into a brand new Clore learning studio. We want to look at how our new studio space can be used creatively by our visitors.  We’ll be exploring the different ways artists in the Whitworth’s collections use their studios and other spaces for creativity, collaborative work, and much more.

Lynn uses her studio as a reflective space, where she can combine her artistic and academic practices. Her studio is a place where she can analyse her previous work, evaluating her practice and getting inspiration for future creations. Lynn says that this process is particularly useful now that she is studying for a PhD in Embroidery and socially engaged art, as it allows her to analyse her work academically in a private space.

As a community focused artist Lynn rarely has this opportunity to quietly reflect on her work, as usually she is engaged with social projects, the outcome of which is often seen in her textile pieces. One of Lynn’s pieces, shown above, features in the Whitworth’s TACTILE textile handling collection, a resource that allows students to handle contemporary textile art works in order to learn about creative processes and conservation issues. See the Whitworth’s TACTILE blog to find out more about Lynn and the other textile artists who have pieces in our handling collection.

Lynn’s studio is a space that is very separate from the work she does in the community, demonstrating how artists’ studios can become places of thoughtful contemplation and evaluation that encourage academic, as well as creative, activity.

A sample of the materials Lynn uses, as well as her work in process, displayed in Touchstones, Rochdale.

A sample of the materials Lynn uses, as well as her work in process, displayed in Touchstones, Rochdale.

Alan Birch, Print maker

alan birch pospect studio 2

Photo of Alan Birch’s studio, courtesy of Alan Birch,



St Vuitton, Alan Birch, 2013. One of a series of Alan’s current prints.

In preparation for the opening of the new Clore learning studio at the Whitworth Art Gallery we are looking at ways in which artists from our collection, or who work with us at the Gallery, use their studio spaces.  Alan Birch is a print artist who regularly runs workshops with school groups at the Whitworth. His studio is on the top floor of a renovated church in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. He has rented the studio for approximately 10 years, and he has very much put his stamp on the place.

His studio is filled with printing equipment and materials, and can be adapted to suit the project he is working on. In this way Alan’s studio is very much a practical space, an area that can be modified depending on his artistic decisions. He also acts as a technician to others who use his studio for their own printing work, rearranging the space to fit their artistic needs. Alan believes that having a versatile studio is extremely important, particularly in creative education, as it allows participants to be more hands on in the creative process and gives them an opportunity to fully realise their artistic ideas.

The amount of time Alan spends in his studio varies. For him it is a place of production, an atmosphere in which he can reflect on his ideas and research in order to create his art works, which are often humorous and topical prints. He says that, when a project is going well, it is a real privilege to be able to spend time in his studio and see his ideas come to life. 

You can see more of Alan’s work at

Owl Project


Images of the Owl Project’s Studio, and an example of their work.

Over the next few months we will be exploring how some of the Whitworth’s Creative Practitioners use their studios to be creative, as well as looking at the studio practices of artists in our collection to help us develop ideas for our own new Clore learning studio leading up to the Whitworth’s reopening.

Many of the artists who work with the Whitworth on our learning programmes have their own studios around the city. The Owl Project is a collaboration between artists Antony Hall, Simon Blackmore and Steve Symons who share a studio in central Manchester. Here they work on collaborative projects that blend sculpture, computer technology and woodwork to create interesting machines and instruments that comment upon artistic and commercial practice. The three have worked on large commissions for international institutions as well as working closer to home at the Whitworth and Manchester Museum.

Take a look at these links for their current projects, including a residency at Manchester Museum:

Their studio is at the heart of their work and is used by all three as a space for creative thinking and practice. The studio is divided into their workshop, stocked high with materials and equipment, and their studio, where the artists develop their ideas using computer technology and smaller pieces of machinery.

The group are experimental with their work and as a result their studio is the site of much of their research. They use whiteboards in the studio, rather than sketch books, so that ideas can be quickly developed and explored. Each of the artists has their own desk in the studio where they experiment with various technologies and mechanisms that interest them, but a major part of their work involves bringing these individual expertise together to work collaboratively. Their studio is organised in order to incorporate both their personal and collective practices and offers a great example of how studio spaces can support the work of art groups. By organising their studio into spaces for independent and collaborative work, and designating areas for either conceptual and practical work the artists are able to utilise their studio effectively throughout their creative processes.

The trio also run their own workshops that centre around their principles of producing art that explores the relationship between humans and consumer technology. Their ilog workshops allow participants to work collectively in order to produce idiosyncratic artworks that resemble modern day high street goods such as ipods. The process of making the pieces takes the form of a production line, and at the end participants have created their own individual product, as opposed to purchasing a mass-produced item. Through their workshops the team not only demonstrate their values of craftsmanship and materiality, they also reflect the organisation of their studio, where collaborative thinking and production are promoted by their creative space.

Studio spaces: New spaces

Learning Studio 2

Welcome to Studio thinking – development blog for the Whitworth’s new Clore Learning Studio.

The Whitworth’s Learning and Engagement team is eagerly awaiting the gallery’s reopening in autumn 2014, and the unveiling of our brand new dedicated Clore Learning Studio funded by the Clore Duffield Foundation . The studio will be one of the first things our visitors see as they approach the Whitworth’s new park-side entrance. It will extend out into Whitworth park and the view from inside will be of the gallery’s new Art Garden, designed by award-winning landscape designer Sarah Price.   Go to the Whitworth’s ‘Gallery in the Park’ blog to see some of Sarah’s ideas and beautiful designs for the gallery’s new outdoor spaces. 

We want our new indoor and outdoor spaces to be really versatile and are interested in how the Clore Learning Studio will be a brilliant space for learning, creativity and expression.  We are imagining it will feel more like an artist’s studio than classroom. It will be used by schools, babies, families, adult learners and many more.  We are developing our ideas about what that could look like: a space where creative learning takes place and where those using the space are encouraged to take the lead. This blog will be a place to think about how we use our new studio space for learning, play and well-being.

Every week, we’ll be looking at one of the artists in the Whitworth’s collections and talking about how they use(d) spaces creatively, whether that’s  a studio space they occupied or an unusual approach to outdoor or urban spaces. We’d like to take inspiration from our artists and how they learned and were influenced by the spaces they worked in.  Our guest blogger, MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies student, Elizabeth Driver will be researching and posting regularly about our artists and their approaches to their spaces.

We’ll also post ideas and updates from our ongoing learning and engagement work – from live research projects to education and community partnerships.   Denise Bowler, Secondary and Post 16 Coordinator is moving into her very own studio space in the city’s Art Atelier and will be inviting groups in to work with her.  She’ll share her work and insights over the coming months.

So, Studio Thinking  is where we will gather our thoughts about learning spaces, but also share more about the artists in our collection – hope you enjoy!

We’d love to know what you think too and look forward to your comments about how we use our brand new spaces for creative learning.