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 display, 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.