MK Gallery: Art and Us


Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Art and Us Programme.

Art and Us is a 3-year programme, which promotes creativity and accessibility for children aged 5+ with complex needs. Supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Milton Keynes Community Foundation, Art and Us allows children to express themselves. In addition, the programme incorporates a family approach to art too.

MK Gallery, situated in Central Milton Keynes, has a long-term partnership with Hastings-based organisation, Project Art Works. (Building their expertise on engagement with children/young people and adults who have complex needs). Project Art Works is a programme that uses both a personalised and holistic approach to freedom of art.


The Art and Us programme was shortlisted at the Fantastic for Families Awards 2019. Furthermore, MK Gallery given recognition for their family-friendly and inclusive arts programme.

Art and Us is aimed at families who feel that their children are unable to access art programmes through mainstream. The programme offers a more bespoke scenario, however, still offers the same opportunities as the mainstream programmes.

Art and Us image from MK Gallery. Image copyright, provided by MK Gallery.

Access to Culture.

MK Gallery’s Curator of Inclusion at MK Gallery, and winner of a Marsh Award for Excellence in Gallery Education. Bethany Mitchell launched the Art and Us Programme. She explains that the programme improves access to culture as well as allowing shaping in a different environment. Bethany elaborates that the programme allows for flexibility as well as being responsive to the families, reflecting in action.

Exploration Through Art.

Bethany identifies the need for exploration through art and allowing a more fluid response. Likewise, she discusses how there are no expectations with the sessions as it is more about the experience, a journey. It is a place where people meet people and incorporate life’s experiences, working together as a family.

Art and Us at MK Gallery. Image copyright, provided by MK Gallery.

It is clear that Bethany is passionate about inclusive arts. She expresses how the programme has brought her so much warmth, a joy to be a part of.

Art and Us Information Form.

Before attending the session, families are e-mailed an Art and Us information form. Above all, the information is downloadable and guarantees that the children’s needs are met. The information form is used to gather information on:

  • Who will be attending?
  • What art materials/activities do you enjoy?
  • What art materials/activities don’t you enjoy?
  • Access and special equipment requirements.
  • The child’s needs.
  • Communication needs.
  • Triggers and strategies that help.

There is also the option to record your information on audio or video. In addition, you can e-mail them if you have difficulty with filling out forms.

Associate Artists.

Each family gets to work directly (1:1) with an associate artist in a warming and accepting environment. The sessions are based on the family’s interests.

One of the associate artists on the programme is trained in using British Sign Language (BSL). Another is fluent with Makaton. So far, 13 associate artists are a part of the Art and Us programme. There are future plans of expanding this to 17. Both the artists and the families grow and learn together through the programme with no fixed agenda.

A Unique Experience.

The family approach grants a unique experience. Incorporating both inclusion of disability and including different generations of family members to join in with the experience.

MK Gallery has produced a Social Care Map of Milton Keynes to identify what social care provision is available locally. Moreover, this helps their programme to engage with their communities, improving the service that they offer.

The Art and Us programme incorporates MK Gallery’s three core values: quality, diversity, and opportunity. Three values that are a central part to the gallery’s mission.

Art and Us Sessions.

During the Art and Us sessions, families get to work on big sheets of cloth. They also use large-scale digital projection and incorporate floor-based work. Furthermore, the artists use tactile material and obscure material such as ball dusters and sieves. Recycled material is incorporated too.

tactile and obscure material at mk gallery, art and us
use of tactile and obscure material (image copyrighted, provided by MK Gallery).

There is a blackout tent available and sensory aids at hand if anyone needs to use them.

I am pleased that MK Gallery offers an inclusive programme. Secondly, art is an important part of my son’s life with his creative artwork and cardboard creations. Me and my son bond through art. He communicates and expresses himself with art, despite having difficulties with his fine motor skills. The Art and Us programme accommodate all needs.

Art and Us reopens on 24th March and will be held in the new Learning Studio. Furthermore, the Learning Studio has easy access to the Changing Places Toilet directly outside the workshop.

There are two sessions, for Art and Us, every Sunday: 11:00am – 12:30pm, and 2:00pm – 3:30pm. Each session costs £5 per family.

Here is the link to read more information about Art and Us: The link also directs you to how these sessions can be booked.

mk gallery reopening , sky room
MK Gallery reopening from the Sky Room.

Employees at MK Gallery always look for ways to expand their services, ensuring that not only their programmes are more accessible and inclusive, but their gallery environment is too. The front of house employees receive disability training sessions. The gallery includes accessed routes with generous width. Furthermore, they provide levelled access at the main entrance, and large print copies of their exhibition guides. The Gallery will also be running a selection of accessible exhibition tours.

mayor of milton keynes cllr martin petchey, milton keynes
A photo of myself with the Mayor of Milton Keynes.

I attended the reopening of MK Gallery. Likewise, the reopening offered a host of performances, including Pagrav Dance, MΌTUS Dance and Togmor, Longstanding MK Folk Rock Legends.

printmaking artwork and food at mk gallery, mk gallery reopening
Printmaking, Artwork and Food.

Changing Places Toilet.

changing places toilet at mk gallery
Changing Places toilet at MK Gallery.

Ian Revell, CEO at Milton Keynes Community Foundation gave a compelling speech, explaining how the Changing Places Toilet (which includes a changing table and hoist) will change the lives of many people who visit Milton Keynes.

Inclusive Art and Cultural Space.

Ian highlighted that through the Margaret Powell Foundation Fund , (one of Milton Keynes’ benefactors for people with disabilities), Milton Keynes Community Foundation were able to contribute to MK Gallery for an inclusive art and cultural space in Milton Keynes. “This was not an afterthought but part of the original vision and plan of MK Gallery”. (Ian Revell).

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MK Gallery Related Posts: Family Art: Part 1 and Family Art: Part 2.

There is also an Art and Crafts Category on the blog:, where you can explore a variety of art themes.

Note: This blog is for information purposes only. I received no payment for this post. I volunteered to write this blog before posting the content; However, after posting, my son was offered a complimentary session for Art and Us. (his first session only).