Museums and galleries have been profoundly affected by the impact of the pandemic. We are places designed for the public to travel to and visit, after all. Our purpose here at the Golden Thread is to share our passion for, and knowledge of, contemporary visual art with as many people as possible, by bringing them through our doors to explore the gallery itself. We work really hard to be as welcoming and accessible as we can to everyone, of all ages and abilities, and to showcase the very best contemporary art to Northern Ireland.
So when we had to close our doors for more than a year, and then, once reopened, were quite rightly required to place many limits and restrictions on our visitors to help keep us all safe, it did something pretty fundamental to who we are and what we want to do. And of course, our audiences were changed too. Gathering in public spaces indoors, dealing with crowds, using public transport, navigating an ableist world… all of these became much more complicated prospects.
We are not quite starting from scratch when it comes to bringing visitors back to the gallery – we are very fortunate to have many loyal return visitors and supporters. Belfast has so many passionate art lovers out there who were so happy to come back! And the content we turned to providing online while the physical gallery was shut, such as our free workshops, zoom sessions, artist interviews and virtual tours, proved really popular and helped us to stay in touch with people – and helped people to stay in touch with each other too. We are going to continue offering special online content, and to stay connected to those people who are not ready or able to come back to the gallery just yet.
But there is no doubt that we have had to rethink our relationship with our physical audiences. We are rebuilding our visitor numbers and we are still not back to pre-pandemic levels. As the slogan goes, we want to ‘build back better’. We want to really understand our visitors changed wants, needs and interests post-Covid, and to offer them a way to get a better understanding of us too. We ‘belong’ to the public, and we want them to feel that sense of ownership and involvement. One very important way we make the gallery more accessible to everyone is that we are completely free and don’t require tickets or booking… but that does make gathering better data to understand our audiences more difficult.
thrive has partnered with The Audience Agency to deliver the iBeholder project in Northern Ireland to help the visual arts sector use data to drive innovation and resilience in the context of the impact of COVID-19, with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Creative Industries Seed Fund and Future Screens NI.
It’s so simple to use! Just scan the QR code on the poster in the gallery lobby with your phone or tablet. There’s nothing to download. you’ll just be linked directly to our iBeholder platform! You’ll find special videos we created which take you behind the scenes of the gallery, and hear directly from our Curator Peter Richards. If you’ve ever wondered how we create our exhibitions, this is your chance to find out! For every piece of exclusive content, we ask a few simple questions that can be answered with a click. The information helps us build a better picture of our visitors but it’s non-intrusive and can be anonymous if you prefer!
You can also sign up for our mailing list – we send out a monthly newsletter about what’s on in the gallery, and invitations to our exhibition launches and special events. It’s a great way to stay in touch with us.
The project runs until 13th June, and we really appreciate everyone who takes part. Not only are you helping us, you are part of helping the whole visual arts sector bounce back and get stronger. So, thank you in advance! We can’t wait to hear from you!
Golden Thread Gallery is supported by: