What is gallery education?

‘Gallery education’ and ‘gallery learning’ are terms used to describe a field which aims to widen access to the visual arts.

Galleries and visual arts organisations are social spaces which can respond to the needs of a wide range of audiences. Gallery education works with gallery visitors and with specific audience groups such as families, disabled people, young people, older people or early years groups, and with the wider public. It aims to encourage access both for those familiar with the visual arts and for new visitors.

Many galleries and art museums around the world have gallery education departments and run programmes working with artist educators, artists, teachers and community leaders.

Gallery education continues to develop in response to changes in art practice, changes in audience needs, and changes in formal and informal education.

Gallery education does not only take place within galleries, but in workshops and artists’ studios, in schools, public spaces, and in the community.

Gallery educators are

Education professionals — using the visual arts as a tool for learning

Creative catalysts — working with artists, curators, and the community to enable the public to have contact with artworks and practising artists

Audience champions — representing schools’ and communities’ needs and expectations in the gallery or museum

Access and education experts — understanding and planning for the needs of different users, including different learning styles and cross-curricular opportunities

Advocates and project managers — promoting and delivering projects and programmes and campaigning on arts and education policy

Gallery education can

Promote visual literacy — helping people develop the tools and vocabulary to experience and respond to art

Unlock creativity — stimulating people to explore their own creative potential, to make art, and to pursue careers in the creative industries

Bring cultural empowerment — building people’s confidence with and understanding of artists, galleries, arts centres, art museums.

Through Engage projects

Hard-to-reach young people aged 16–25 have learned new skills, developed their artistic practice, gained accreditation within formal work environments and planned their pathways forward

Children and teachers have spread creativity in learning throughout the curriculum, boosting literacy, numeracy and social skills through art

Older people have been introduced to artists and galleries, resulting in improved quality of life, and reducing loneliness and social isolation

Teachers have gained insight into gallery education and its value in the classroom, and built and developed valuable relationships with artists and galleries

Artists and artist educators have been able to further their skills and knowledge, forge professional links with galleries and schools, and undertake practical and policy-based training

Galleries have been able to research the issues and understand how to offer a sustained level of good access to visitors, artists, employees and volunteers

Gallery educators have experienced specialist training and professional support from Engage and their peers, and have worked in partnership with other galleries in the UK and abroad, local authorities, schools and arts organisations

Youth workers have been able to work closely with artists and galleries as a practical means of developing understanding, testing ideas and improving delivery for children and young people.


For further information on careers in gallery education please click here.

Whether you’re an artist, educator, student or other arts and education professional, you can join Engage to enhance and support your gallery education practice.

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