Interpretations gave four galleries in Scotland the opportunity to effect change in their interpretation practice through action research. Drawing from their own specific circumstances, gallery teams developed innovative ways of working with staff and audiences towards fresh interpretation practice for contemporary art.
Through a variety of interventions each project shifts the authorial voice from the expert to the visitor. In using action research the projects promote participation and critical reflection as key values in developing new and existing audiences for contemporary art.
The provenance of the Interpretations Project was located in the scoping work of Dr Heather Lynch, Mapping Interpretation Practices in Contemporary Art (2006). This document outlines existing interpretation practice at contemporary art venues in Scotland and describes the barriers to accessing this art as perceived by those working in the sector.
Interpretations contributes to a growing body of UK research in the field of gallery interpretation and audience development (Taylor 2006; Charman & Ross 2006). The research and dissemination of enquire and envision advanced the significance of gallery experiences for young people’s learning. The enquire project, ‘Inspiring Learning in Galleries’ (Taylor 2008, Burgess & Addison 2007; Taylor 2006) facilitated intellectual access to contemporary art for school children through partnership clusters of artists, university-based researchers, gallery educators, pupils and art teachers. envision focused on young people (14–21) working through action research with galleries. enquire and envision differed from Interpretations in terms of scale, scope and focus but they offer valuable insights into the various conditions for intellectual access, the sustainability and legacy of gallery-based projects for audience development. However, in common with enquire and envision, Interpretations was concerned with the participatory methods of action research as a means of professional development in the practice of interpretation in art galleries.