Putting Engagement Centre Stage

15 April 2018



Angelica Vanasse, Education Manager, Arts Council Collection at the Walker Art Gallery explains how the Gallery worked to put engagement activity centre stage as part of their major National Partners exhibition, Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender & Identity.


When we decided to create FORUM, an embedded engagement space within the Coming Out exhibition, we were hoping that it would be used by individuals and groups to bring their voices and perspectives to the exhibition.

The exhibition featured artworks from the Arts Council Collection as well as the Walker Art Gallery’s own collection, which offered many different ways to explore a range of ideas around identity, including looking at art and activism, intersectionality, and the words we use to describe ourselves.

It’s been wonderful to see the potential of this space realised through over 36 events programmed as part of Coming Out – many inspired and led by members of LGBT+ communities.

Using public collections to explore themes that are meaningful to our audiences within a public institution has helped to build upon our LGBT+ work and enhance awareness for our audiences alongside representation and visibility of LGBT+ communities.


FORUM provided an adaptable space for a range of projects, including hosting a pop-up exhibition curated by young people from GYRO, Young Person's Advisory Service (YPAS) LGBTQ youth groups, and THE Action Youth, a YPAS trans-specific youth group. The exhibition formed part of Liverpool Mental Health Festival and was accompanied by musical performances and a screening of one of the Today I Am films created in conjunction with Thinking Film.

FORUM became a space for the voices and identities of LGBT+ young people to be shared and celebrated. As Chris Porter, YPAS Support Services Team Lead (LGBTQIA+), who worked closely with the young people to develop this event describes; '...we thought it really important to showcase the amazing work that young LGBTQ+ people across Merseyside have done highlighting pride in their identity. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community can be both isolating and galvanising and we hope that the pop-up in FORUM showcased what happens when LGBTQ+ youth get together to use their energy and enthusiasm to shout loud and proud about their identities'.

The Arts Council Collection : Putting Engagement Centre Stage
The Arts Council Collection : Putting Engagement Centre Stage

The event wouldn't have been possible without the contributions from the young people who took part. Ben Saunders, the artist behind the photographs, shared these words with us about his experience:

‘I took the photographs displayed in this pop-up exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery called LGBTQ+ Youth - Take Pride in Your Identity throughout the Saturday of Liverpool Pride 2017, when I was part of the parade with the amazing youth service I go to called the Young Persons Advisory Service (YPAS). Having my photographs featured in this pop-up exhibition and seeing them in such big print on display for the public was very exciting and I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity. I documented the day’s events and to capture how overwhelmingly loud, proud and beautiful our city's LGBTQ+ community is. But also, I hope that they can show what a visible and supportive city Liverpool can be towards the LGBTQ+ community. The event was developed by the young people at GYRO and THE Action Youth alongside the amazing staff that support them.'

Projects like this one help to demonstrate what's possible in museums and galleries when it comes to exploring the ways in which we can interact with one another and use collections as a starting point for exploring themes that impact our lives.

Reflecting on the event and what it meant for those involved, Paul Rooney, YPAS Information, Advice and Guidance Worker (LGBTQIA+), said; 'The pop-up event was a great success and young people really enjoyed having the chance to showcase their work in such a prestigious venue.  Curating the exhibition has not only helped young people develop confidence in themselves and their abilities but has also shown them that venues like the Walker Art Gallery can be for, and enjoyed by, young people.' 

Creating a space like FORUM within the gallery for voices to be heard made it possible for our audiences to reflect on their identity as a part of this exhibition and it has helped to inform and shape our approaches for programming moving forward.

Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender & Identity is shortlisted for best Temporary or Touring Exhibition at the 2018 Museum + Heritage Awards, to be announced on 16 May.


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.