A creative hub in the centre of Liverpool
10 years on since Liverpool 2008 Capital of Culture, our city is still reeling from it's legacy - going from strength to strength. Liverpool Focus looks at the cultural institutions around Liverpool that have made this happen, the Bluecoat being one of them.
With almost 700,000 visitors annually, the Bluecoat is located in central Liverpool, parallel to the busy shopping hub of Church Street. More than just an art space, it's home to artist studios, rehearsal rooms, a café and bistro, and a beautiful secret garden - an oasis in the middle of the city. Situated in the oldest city centre building in Liverpool, the Bluecoat building was completed in 1717 to house a school. Since becoming an art space in 1906, artistic activity has been at the heart of the building, as Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director, explains:
"Different art forms - music, dance, literature, architecture - were part of the mix from the beginning. From the 60s onwards there was a greater crossover of these different forms, and a lot more experimentation."
Redeveloped in 2008, the Bluecoat now plays host to four gallery spaces - one of which, Gallery 3, has expansive floor to ceiling windows looking out onto pedestrianised College Lane. It's not uncommon to see people peering through the windows into the gallery space from outside - a changing shop window of art or sculpture is available to viewers from the street. Most recently, you might have noticed Jacob Epstein's sculpture Genesis, on loan from the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester as part of In The Peaceful Dome.
This outside-in mentality works on numerous levels throughout the Bluecoat and has undoubtedly led to the organisation's continued success. With audience research indicating that Bluecoat has the widest demographic of any cultural institution in Liverpool, the community of people that work in and around the Bluecoat is diverse. An average week would see everything from Liverpool's homeless choir, A Choir With No Name, rehearsing and eating together, to beginners turning their hand to screen-printing for the first time, and everything in between.
The Bluecoat has a unique energy. It's busy and engaged, it's sunny and welcoming, but more than anything, it's a truly unique space. Not only is it a community hub, it is also nationally renowned for it's arts programme, with displayed artists reflecting a range of creative practices. It's upcoming exhibition, Euphonia by Emma Smith, is an exploration of sound and conversation. Last summer, Abacus turned the gallery space into a playground for children and their families to enjoy.
"We look for artists who are making art that is pertinent to our times, pushing the boundaries of their practice and creating work that has power and presence."
- Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director
Time for more?