What links The Whitworth Art Gallery to a Manchester Football club?

11 08 2014


The Whitworth’s new earth tubes are the latest bit of kit being installed to boost our sustainability credentials, and part of the building project’s bid to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.  The ground-air heat exchanger takes advantage of the fact that the temperature of the ground, 1.5 to 2m deep, remains a relative constant temperature between 7ºC-12°C throughout the year.


Incoming outside air passes through an underground pipe system to pre-heat it in winter and to pre-cool it in the summer.  By using the embodied ground energy to pre-condition the incoming ventilation air, it is possible to improve the quality of the air inside the Gallery, as well as saving both costs and energy.

The biggest issue facing the construction team with the installation was sourcing the soil for the back fill around the tubes.  The required soil mix was based around a German specification, fairly new to us in the UK – one of the Ameon engineers explained the problem: ‘… we spent a good few days trying to source the same spec within the British isles – in the end It was right under our nose all the time.  Football grounds have heated pitches and use the mix of soil we required, so the soil the Whitworth’s project now has around the earth tubes, which are buried 1500mm down, is re-claimed soil from Manchester United’s football ground.’


Back-filling around the earth tubes with reclaimed soil from Man Utd

Back-filling around the earth tubes with reclaimed soil from Man Utd

So there you are – never did I expect to be using the words Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester United in the same sentence!

Art in the Park 5

3 08 2014

Six White Horses by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson

Six White Horses by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson 

© Image by www.WeAreTape.com

Two and a half acres of grassland, a paddock, a set of floodlights, six white horses and versions of a famous country and western song came together to make an unforgettable one-night-only spectacle that provided the climax for our Whitworth Weekending events in late-Summer 2013.

Artists Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson were commissioned to create an artwork that would mark the end of one stage of the gallery’s life and the start of our current period of temporary closure, the continuation of building work as part of our capital redevelopment. The result was a serene, pastoral landscape with a twist, being in the middle of our own urban oasis, Whitworth Park.

Assistant Curator Helen Stalker described the scene in early evening: “The setting was romantic and beautiful, and then eerie and magical as the light started to fade and the moonlight and theatrical lighting took over – a lament”.

The gathering of crowds echoed the scenes in one of the works in our renowned collection of Victorian landscapes, Welsh Funeral by David Cox. Furthering this link Curator of Fine Art Mary Griffiths commented on the symbolic imagery of 6 white horses, who would traditionally pull a funeral carriage and take a person on their ‘final’ journey – the representation or embodiment of an ending.

Welsh Funeral by David Cox

Welsh Funeral by David Cox

Find out more about Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson’s work via their website http://www.croweandrawlinson.net

Spent Matches by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson is also is featured as part of our Art Auction sale, which is currently raising funds for the redevelopment of the gallery http://artauction.manchesterdda.net/

Our next teaser question will also test your memory of summers past: ‘Which park artwork possessed the trees of Whitworth Park during Manchester International Festival in 2011?’

Culture Makes a Difference – +Culture Shots 14-18 July 2014

15 07 2014


While building continues both at the back of the Whitworth Art Gallery, and now too at the front facing Oxford Road. Opposite us at the hospital and at other NHS sites nearby, +Culture Shots is in full swing.

+CultureShots is a week-long series of free events, planned to fit around a busy working day, offering a chance for you to become enthused by culture. Our ambition is to encourage individuals to find out why culture works, by discovering how the expertise within Manchester museums and galleries can be used to improve professional practice as well as patient’s health and wellbeing. For the full programme, a comprehensive guide to what’s on, where to find us and how you can get the most out of your +Culture Shots 2014 experience! See: http://www.healthandculture.org.uk/ for more information.

Last year +CultureShots hosted Trees for Me, a photography competition, which was a great success! Congratulations to our 2013 competition winners: Steven Roper (see his wonderful image of decorated trees from the Whitworth’s South Gallery windows, above) Sally Thelwell and Nicola Walker, and a big thank you to all 37 who entered. The eight most striking photographs were carefully selected to sit centre stage in the exhibition beautifully framed in the nuclear medicine corridor, situated just off the link corridor, adjoining to St Marys (see images below). The theme of the competition tied in exceptionally well with the Manchester Museum’s vast collections relating to trees and the uses of wood.

Tree and rooftops by Sally Thelwell

Tree and rooftops by Sally Thelwell

Silver Birch at Dunham Massey by Nicola Walker

Silver Birch at Dunham Massey by Nicola Walker

Winning entries displayed  in St Mary's Hospital Manchester

Winning entries displayed in St Mary’s Hospital Manchester

This year, +CultureShots will be hosting Changes, a creative writing competition. We are calling on aspiring writers to pen a poem, a short story or even write a song. The modern world never stays still for very long and it is this dynamism of change, renewal and rebirth that we would like staff to harness in their writing. What does change feel like? Does it inspire and energise everything around it? Or does it create nostalgia for the past and what once was?
For a more detailed outline of events go to: http://www.healthandculture.org.uk/programmes-artists/programmes/changes/

New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

29 06 2014

New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

With only four months to go before the Whitworth reopens its doors, life for everyone at the Gallery has ramped up a notch or two. Last week saw the arrival on site of our Phase II contractors, Manchester & Cheshire Construction Co Ltd., who will be joining ISG on completing the overall building project for the new Whitworth. The second phase of the project focuses on the original frontage of the Gallery facing onto Oxford Road which will be completely re-landscaped, combining an architectural design from MUMA, a new lighting scheme by engineers, Buro Happold, garden design by Sarah Price and the installation of existing sculptures and new commissions onto a sculpture terrace.

In anticipation of the Oxford Road Corridor scheme, which will see private vehicles removed from a length of Oxford Road, including directly in front of the Whitworth, there will be no vehicle access into the Gallery grounds. Instead, visitors arriving by car or coach will approach the building from Denmark Road, while anyone using public transport, cycle or on foot will be able to use either the new Parkside entrance or the redeveloped entrance as shown in the architect’s drawing above.

All the existing gates will remain, but the current road (due to be dug up over the next few weeks) will be replaced by a gently sloping stone and bound gravel route, and reconfigured step-free entrance, providing level access from the outer pavements all the way into the building. There will be a terrace area for events, gatherings and the display of artworks; all the existing trees will be retained and complemented with new formal planting, lawns, seating and soft landscaping.

Tibetan Cherry

Tibetan Cherry

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 21.21.00
The soft landscaping designs by Sarah Price will include loosely clipped ‘cloud’ hedging to create a low rolling structure, formal trees such as Tibetan Cherry providing interest with decorative flowers, leaves and bark, and year round colour through flowering bulbs.

'Cloud' hedging and flowering bulbs

‘Cloud’ hedging and flowering bulbs

So far, much of the work on site has been at the back of the original building, but there will be great changes to the site facing Oxford Road over the next few months. This final part of the scheme is being funded mostly by Arts Council England and will link both sides of the Gallery and the surrounding Whitworth Park through the landscaping and lighting designs – watch this space.

Whitworth: Past, Present and Future: An outdoor tour

9 06 2014

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With warmer weather on the way we invite you to join us for Whitworth: Past, Present & Future: An outdoor tour for those interested in finding out more about the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester’s gallery in the park, whilst we undergo a £15 million redevelopment (opening Autumn).

Sarah Sanders from the Visitor Services team leads the first tour

Sarah Sanders from the Visitor Services team leads the first tour

The Whitworth’s very own Visitor Team will take you back through the Gallery’s illustrious 125 year history, from its humble beginnings as Grove House, a gallery established ‘for the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester’, right up to the present day. Hear about what the redeveloped Whitworth will offer: brand new exhibition spaces, a fabulous art garden designed by Sarah Price, the innovative Clore Learning Studio and more… All this whilst taking a stroll through Whitworth Park, with views of the original façade of the building and encounters with some of the Whitworth’s collections of outdoor art.
Dates and times

Thursday 5 June, Thursday 3 July, Thursday 7 August, Thursday 4 September and Thursday 2 October
12.15 – 1pm
*Tours start at The Anchor, 508 Moss Lane East

Saturday 7 June, Saturday 5 July, Saturday 2 August, Saturday 6 September and Saturday 4 October
2 – 3pm
*Tours start at The Anchor, 508 Moss Lane East

Tours are wheelchair accessible

All tours are FREE, but booking is essential.

Please contact the Whitworth to book a tour at:

email: whitworth@manchester.ac.uk
Tel: 0161 275 7450

These parkland tours will go ahead even if it is raining – please wear appropriate footwear for a walk in the park, and be prepared for the Mancunian weather!


Talking sustainability in San Francisco

30 05 2014

Talking sustainability in San Francisco

This week, the city of San Francisco is hosting the American Institute of Conservation’s 42nd Annual Meeting, and this year with 1,212 delegates, it is the largest conservation conference organised in the US. The theme of the meeting, is ‘Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care’, and during the four days sees over 200 presentations, workshops and roundtable discussions on topics ranging from LED lighting, to the use of lime based grouts for the conservation of historic masonry, and from the dilemmas posed by collecting Digital Video Art, to the Conservation of a 17th century convent in downtown Lima, Peru.

My own paper – part of the opening session on day one, was the perfect place to promote the work of the Whitworth’s collection care team and in particular the sustainable elements of our building project; titled, ‘Being a Gallery in a Park: Balancing Sustainability, Access and Collection Care’, it sat neatly amongst other presentations, including ‘Sustainable Collections Care on a Budget – a New Museum Store for Bolton, UK’ from conservation colleague, Pierrette Squires, ‘Precaution, Proof and Pragmatism: 150 years of expert debate on the Museum Environment’, and one that felt very familiar, ‘ A LEED primer for Conservators, Or, What Should I Do When the Architect Proposes Introducing Daylight in Our New Galleries?’


At the end of day one, the general consensus was that there had been some excellent presentations – many of a usefully practical nature, and well orchestrated opportunities for networking, including great hospitality at a reception at the de Young Museum situated in the beautiful Golden Gate Park.

Exquisitely clean, calm, light and airy paper conservation lab at the Legion of Honor Art Museum

Exquisitely clean, calm, light and airy paper conservation lab at the Legion of Honor Art Museum

In addition to the conference, I joined a tour earlier in the week to the de Young and Legion of Honor – both part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The tours took us into the galleries, but also behind the scenes to the objects, paintings, textiles and paper conservation laboratories – this was a great opportunity to talk to colleagues and compare notes on conservation materials, equipment and treatments.

I’ve also done a spot of benchmarking for the Manchester Museum in the Naturalist Center at the California Academy of Sciences, and since sustainability is the main theme of the conference, I’ve also been checking out examples of good practice – see the photos below:

The huge green roof on the California Academy of Sciences

The huge green roof on the California Academy of Sciences

60,000 photovoltaic cells in the roof canopy supply energy as well as shielding the building from the sun

60,000 photovoltaic cells in the roof canopy supply energy as well as shielding the building from the sun

Beautifully explained waste management options on the recycling bins!

Beautifully explained waste management options on the recycling bins!

Publicly displayed building energy information at the Exploratorium

Publicly displayed building energy information at the Exploratorium

Creating a new Volunteer Programme

27 05 2014

Creating a new Volunteer Programme

Whitworth Volunteer Coordinator Fee Cariss is busy recruiting and training a team of volunteers to assist at the Whitworth when we reopen in Autumn 2014 – here she tells us all about it.

‘After heading up the volunteer programme for the Manchester International Festival in 2013 and managing a portion of the thousands of Games Makers for the Olympics London 2012, I am very excited to produce and develop a new volunteer programme for the redeveloped Whitworth Art Gallery.

I want to create and give opportunities for volunteers to learn, develop and make a difference when volunteering for the Whitworth. Recruiting an enthusiastic and dedicated team of diverse individuals, bringing them together in creating the best volunteers in Manchester!

Volunteers will be at the heart of the new Whitworth and anyone can get involved in lots of different ways from supporting artists, getting hands-on and creative, intimate workshops through to large scale events, behind the scenes, art-gardening and helping with our children, family and adult programmes.

New roles to support our future plans are currently being developed and one of the roles we have in place will be Volunteer Art Gardeners; the maintenance and upkeep of the landscaped areas created by Sarah Price will be down to team of dedicated and enthusiastic arty gardener volunteers. They will get the chance to work closely with Sarah, be fully trained by gardening professionals and get their hands dirty being outdoors in our glorious Manchester weather!

The new Collections Access Area will also be key to volunteer input and assistance. The purpose of this role is to support the widespread use of the Collections Access Area and provide increased access to the collections of the Whitworth Art Gallery for all our visitors. Trained volunteers will encourage direct engagement with collections and create a meeting with visitors of all ages. This is an amazing opportunity to get to know the Whitworth’s Collection and work alongside our curators.

We will also be launching teams of Family volunteers. Getting families together of all ages from grandma’s to dad’s and from teenagers to toddlers, the volunteers will be involved across the board from helping deliver sessions, peer to peer learning, to family bloggers helping promote and reflect on our sessions for other families.

And of course, to support our producer Alex Rinsler in the launching of the Gallery’s opening weekend, Event volunteers will play a crucial part in assisting with the expansion of the Gallery and importance of getting the word out to the general public. They will then go on to assist with the other events, big and small, which we will be holding throughout the year.

Other opportunities will include volunteer assisted Walking for Health tours and lots of creative roles alongside our Learning and Engagement Team.

My aims have always been for volunteers to have fun and ensuring everyone achieves their motivations for getting involved so I will be making sure I meet and chat with everyone coming onboard and putting them in a role I hope they love!

Team Volunteer at a recent Whitworth Pub Quiz

Team Volunteer at a recent Whitworth Pub Quiz

We are looking to recruit over 100 volunteers, providing training and inductions throughout September ready for our opening in Autumn,

Being from Manchester and having visited the Whitworth Art Gallery since I was a little girl I am very much looking forward to seeing, and working in, Manchester’s new gallery in the park!’

Register your interest in volunteering by emailing or phoning Fiona at:
Fiona Cariss | Fiona.cariss@manchester.ac.uk | 0161 275 8459

Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play & Politics

22 05 2014

Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play & Politics

A new exhibition opened to the public today at the Manchester Museum charting the history of Whitworth Park, and based on work carried out over the last couple of years through the Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project, funded in part by a Heritage Lottery Fund Your Heritage grant. A huge number of people have been involved with the project, including staff and students of the University of Manchester, led by the Department of Archaeology, as well as the Friends of Whitworth Park, staff from the Museum, as well as the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Ahmed Iqbal Race Relations Resource Centre.


Lots of local school students joined in the archaeological dig that uncovered a whole host of finds – sadly lost toys, including a lead soldier, and marbles, fragments of pottery and numerous glass ‘pop’ bottles, all of which bring together a picture of how the park was used over the decades.


The exhibition runs until 5 October, and the Museum is running a series of events over the summer, including ‘Conservation on Show’ (23 July 12-2pm) – which I’m plugging here, as its my fabulous team at the Museum who assisted the archaeologists and students with the conservation of artefacts, and our technicians who, as ever, have built a great exhibition set!

Art in the Park – 4

20 05 2014

Art in the Park - 4

Last month’s teaser question made reference to an artwork that has been a permanent fixture of the Whitworth’s grounds since 2009. The sight of Gustav Metzger’s striking installation Flailing Trees will be very familiar to those who travel along Oxford Road day-to-day. The road, upon which we are situated, is reportedly Europe’s “busiest bus route”, and channels those based in South Manchester into and out of the city centre for work, hospital appointments, lectures at the universities or evenings out.

Originally a commission for Manchester International Festival (hyperlink: http://www.mif.co.uk), the work consists of 20 upended willow trees, heads plunged into a base of around 7 tonnes of concrete. It occupied a space in Manchester Peace Garden for the duration of the 2009 festival before being moved (with the assistance of a crane) down to its existing spot outside our Oxford Road entrance. It is now part of our permanent collection and is viewable through all seasons, against the changing backdrop of Whitworth Park.

Described by Metzger when speaking to the Guardian (Hyperlink: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/interactive/2009/jun/30/gustav-metzger-manchester-festival) as a “protest piece,” he justifies the ‘violent arrangement’, the roots unnaturally exposed, bare and jutting towards the sky – in juxtaposition with the living lushness of the trees of Whitworth Park, as a stand against the brutality that humans display towards the natural world.

Gustav Metzger is a hugely influential artist and political activist who pioneered the concept of Auto-Destructive Art in the 1960s and the Art Strike of the 1990s. A new exhibition focusing on Metzger’s “auto-creative” work will open later this month at Kettle’s Yard (Hyperlink: http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/exhibitions/2014/metzger/)

And so for our next month’s teaser question – ‘Which one-night-only park artwork was inspired by this song?’

Retail Therapy at the new Whitworth

16 05 2014

Retail Therapy at the new Whitworth

While our new building continues to grow and shape up, and I’ve shown visitors to this blog tantalising images of our new galleries, promenades, and cafe, as well as glimpses of steelwork and muddy holes in the ground, much effort continues behind the scenes as all members of Whitworth staff prepare for our opening in October. This report comes from Head of Commercial Operations, Marcus Chase:

‘As the Whitworth Art Gallery continues the journey of major redevelopment, we will see new spaces become available along with changes to previously familiar ones. In particular, the transformation of the old cafe and shop spaces leading off the Entrance Hall will reveal an exciting new retail space for the Gallery. But what would we be stocking in that space and how would we go about deciding this?

During the period we have been closed, there have been many workshops for staff and a great deal of research undertaken to plan a new strategy and identify products and ranges we will be selling when we re-open. In addition, we have been working with Jane Wentworth Associates’ retail specialist Frances Croxford who gave us a unique insight into Retail in the Cultural Sector recently. At this session nearly 40 colleagues from all areas of work met at Manchester Art Gallery from the Whitworth, Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery and Platt Hall.

Frances shared with us an insight into what makes retail important and how it fits into the cultural visitor’s experience; selling a good time, a holiday without taking a flight, creating surprise and seeing people buying stuff that is a ‘souvenir’ of their visit. Selling a slice of happiness.

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We saw how the museum and gallery experience has progressed from the 1850’s to today and how the retail experience has moved with that and the many changes happening in the wider world to retail alongside the many different ways to shop. Frances gave us an insight into the economics and emotional reasons for developing a strong retail presence along with a clear sense of engaging with our visitors. This was distilled down into ten guides to smart retail and ranged from knowing our brand and customer to being curators of our shops and not just buyers to ensure that our Whitworth individuality and personality shines through in everything we do. This wider picture is invaluable for us all to understand what is behind the detailed work we are now doing in readiness for October’.