Barber Home: Our collection, your place

A new online collaboration with artists from across the West Midlands will bring the Barber Institute of Fine Arts into people’s homes during the Covid-19 crisis.

Anyone, wherever they are in the world, with access to the internet, can bring the Barber into their own space and take up practical art activities and workshops, share reflections on the collection and join in online events through a series of weekly projects for all ages to be launched on the Barber’s website every Thursday. Visit the Barber Home website.

The Barber’s Learning and Engagement team are working with city and regional artists to create original responses to the gallery’s world-class collection, providing access to art while the gallery, on the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus, is closed.

First to go live on 30 April was Birmingham’s Infinite Opera, who delivered an innovative and compelling pop-up performance in the gallery in March, inspired by an icon of modernist sculpture, Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction in Space No, 1, 1942–43. Alongside the performance script, Infinite Opera shared a written meditation on the original performance. On 7 April artist Ruth Turnbull created a Concertina Creepy Crawlies family resource inspired by a 17th century print in the collection. As home is now the new school all family resources link to the key stage 1 and 2 curriculum to assist families at their kitchen table classrooms.

Barber Home will enable artists to work with students, families and our general audiences through three different streams of work. The innovative Barber Lates programme, which has featured Birmingham academics and artists drawing inspiration from each other to create exciting cross-disciplinary events, are the model for sessions aimed at younger adults, while the Barber’s sell-out Creative Sunday Workshops for children aged four to 12 years old will also find its on-line counterpart in Barber Home, in the form of downloadable workshop pdfs for families to enjoy together.

New Barber Home projects be posted on the website each week, where they will remain for audiences to access at their leisure.

Flora Kay, the Barber’s Learning and Engagement Manager, explained that Barber Home was initially devised as a way of engaging audiences with the Barber at home, while also sustaining creative relationships with artists and freelancers.

Barber Home allows us to connect people with the Barber while we can’t physically have access to the collection and exhibitions,’ said Flora. ‘We are offering people reflective responses to the collection, interactive activities and practical workshops. The programme is still evolving in exciting ways – and we hope it offers opportunities for the team to work with artistic partners for new collaborations in the future.

The Barber’s Head of Public Engagement, Jen Ridding, added

We’re looking forward to sharing the Barber with people who know and love the collection but also those people who have never visited the Barber before, whether they be 5 minutes down the road or 500 miles away. We’re proud to be supporting the city’s artistic community by commissioning artists, and the designers who created the bold Barber Home identity, and supporting them both financially and creatively through this challenging time. Arts and culture is needed more than ever now and we’re playing our small part in ensuring that when we emerge from this crisis our local creative community will be there to support us all.

The Barber’s Director, Nicola Kalinsky,

Covid-19 is the most significant global tragedy of our generation and we feel strongly that even though our contribution is small compared to front line endeavours, the wonderful resources of the Barber should be deployed to cheer and sustain. Supporting our local artists and practitioners, these new activities and content packages are offered in a bid to stimulate and nourish our audiences, wherever they may be and whenever they want to use them.