Are You Messin'?

03 July - 18 September 2022

We hosted an interactive and immersive exhibition for children and their adults in Summer 2022, featuring work by leading UK artists that is designed to be touched and explored.

Visitors got hands-on with artworks in this interactive exhibition that immersed and captivated audiences of all ages, and inspired creativity in young visitors.

During the summer holidays, a special programme of free workshops, performances and storytelling took place within the exhibition.

Hear from Bluecoat Curator Gina Tsang and get a glimpse into how our fun, family friendly exhibition Are You Messin'? was created.

Film by Carl Davies, FACT Video Production

Gallery One

In Gallery One, Gregory Herbert (Liverpool), collaborating with children from the Bluecoat’s Out of the Blue after-school art clubs, presented an immersive sensory room with stimulating visuals, soothing sounds and comfy spaces - this room provided a calm and engaging place to dwell.

Herbert is interested in the relationship between living organisms and their environments, particularly taking influence from models of collaboration and coexistence. Herbert has previously explored the movements of fungi, sea slugs, frogs, octopuses, sea anemones, gut flora and lichen in his practice, as well as incorporating food preparation and planting.

Herbert worked with local children from Leamington Community Primary, Four Oaks Primary, Princes Primary and Smithdown Primary schools for nine weeks, collaboratively developing the artworks that made up his sensory space. The children helped him to design the space as part of the Bluecoat’s ongoing commitment to making art accessible to all.

Gallery Two

Across Gallery Two, Katie Schwab (London/Glasgow) layered textures, touchable surfaces and sculptures to create two rooms that invite tactile engagement and learning through play for all ages.

Katie Schwab is an artist with a special interest in early-mid twentieth-century design and craft; her practice is emphatically hands-on, collaborative and participatory. For her installations at the Bluecoat, Schwab took inspiration from a number of twentieth-century art & design reference points. These included the iconic 1950s ceramic tile work produced by Carter of Poole that once decorated the Lewis’s department store public cafeteria in Liverpool city centre and ‘The Tactile Workshops’ book by Italian artist & designer Bruno Munari (1907-98). Munari’s book suggests making a touchable library for children - a collection of materials with different tactile qualities - which are reflected in Schwab’s installation which encourages children to experiment freely. This artwork was a joint commission in partnership with Collective (Edinburgh).

Gallery Three

Artists from the city and wider North presented ‘inspiration works’ - prints, drawings and sculptures - as the starting point for creative responses, playfully displayed in a hands-on making artist studio specially designed and scaled for children. The space will feature artworks by Penny Davenport, Kate Hodgson, Aliyah Hussain, Fauziya Johnson, Josie Jenkins, Kohenoor Kamal, Emily Lansley, Millie Toyin Olateju, Niloo Sharifi, Linny Venables with furniture by Crown Building Studios.

The children’s artist studio, complete with making resources, was animated with regular free live and pre-recorded artist workshops. Activities aimed at babies and toddlers (0-3) and children (4-11 years old) included story telling, demonstrations of techniques and sensory play sessions.

Gallery Four

Children and families enjoyed a contemplative library space with a specially selected reading list including dual language books focused on creativity and identity. The room was embellished with a hanging mobile by Millie Toyin Olateju (Liverpool). Millie Toyin Olateju makes colourful abstract paintings and drawings that are the result of free play with her materials. Spontaneous and process led, they are a means to connect to the present moment and joyfully explore colour, shape and texture. Her artwork at the Bluecoat took the abstract forms and shapes from her paintings and translated these into a mobile.