Ever since LearnPlay Foundation arrived at The Public I had thought that their presence created a great opportunity to extend the learning and cooperative nature of the work of the gallery. Here were a large group of Sandwell teenagers who were clearly interested in learning creative skills and yet were not privileged with the sort of access to those skills that young people in say London or Birmingham might be. The Public presented opportunities for them to develop their skills in a real live environment and for those skills to be shown to the visitors to The Public.
There were some real practical skills to be learned and developed; including exhibition display, photography, video. All these were immediately useful to the exhibition team who were able to offer the apprentices work in mounting and documenting exhibitions. The apprentices themselves came up with more ideas, most intriguingly the production of Little Big Planet worlds about The Public itself.
As time went on the apprentices became a real and valued part of the exhibitions team, reliably available to assist in the constant change over of exhibitions. Ultimately a group of apprentices were involved in mounting an exhibition of the work of Jeremy Deller, an internationally recognised artist who is representing Britain at the 2013 Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious art exhibition in the world. Another group of apprentices documented the process as they had done with a residency by international video artist Joanie Lemercier the previous year. Apprentices were also able to take part in Lemercier’s residency, an opportunity not something they would normally expect to get in any ordinary apprenticeship scheme.
The Little Big Planet project lead on to The Public commissioning the Games Department at LearnPlay to create a game about the Black Country – Legends of the Black Country. This ambitious game was on show for visitors to play for 3 months as the centrepiece of the Black Country Legends exhibition. Few other apprenticeship schemes could provide such a real experience of media production with the added benefit of being able to see members of the public interacting with their creation.
A building like The Public, with its combination of rental accommodation, focus on developing local skills and the spectacular setting for showing their work, make it a unique place for apprentices to develop and acquire skills and confidence that will give them a real advantage in finding work in the creative industries. We are proud to be part of such a project.