In 2017, Nottingham City Arts was awarded a grant from a joint fund set up by the Baring Foundation and the Social Tech Trust (was Nominet) for a programme called Armchair Gallery. The aim of this programme is to develop an app offering bespoke virtual tours of world class art collections to engage older people whose circumstances mean they cannot visit in person.
It is an exciting time for City Arts as we have been working very hard this past year with a fabulous in-house team to bring the new Armchair Gallery app to you! This free app will soon be available in the Autumn of 2018 to use on iOS and android tablets.
Older people often find it difficult to get out to see or participate in arts and cultural activities, and even more so those living in care homes. We believe digital arts have an important role in creative ageing, with both the potential to reduce the digital divide by introducing technology to older people in a non-threatening and playful way and to increase participation through remote access to the arts.
It is a sad fact that when people get older they often become cut off from cultural life – health and mobility issues make visits to cultural institutions a rare occurrence.
We started with an Armchair Gallery pilot project in 2014 which supported 250 Nottingham care home residents to access the historic art collections of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, and South East London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery. With the support of professional artists a particular model of practice has been developed. We have supported residents to take inspiration from the treasures of the Chatsworth and Dulwich collections to create their own artworks in response to their virtual visits.
This funding is supporting Armchair Gallery to launch the app in cities throughout the UK. It will bring another five cultural venues into the app – The Lowry, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Mr Straws House and Newstead Abbey. During the production process, the app has been piloted with older adults to ensure that it is accessible and also meets the needs of people living with dementia. The finished app includes instructions for creative activities that care home staff can run with older people. The app can also be used by individuals, family members and carers supporting older people, artists and health and education professionals.