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Pop-up art gallery in Chester impresses shoppers and visitors

University of Chester students displayed their work in Forum Shopping Centre

Faculty of Arts and Media, Forum Shopping Centre Fine Art Gallery. PICTURED: Forum Shopping Centre manage Lawrence Allen with Chris Millward and Tom Hignett from the University of Chester

Part of a shopping centre in Chester was transformed into a pop-up art gallery recently, when two members of the University of Chester’s Faculty of Arts and Media displayed the culmination of two years’ hard work.

Technical demonstrators Chris Millward and Tom Hignett have both been studying for their MRes (Master’s by Research) in art and media and were looking for somewhere different to present their work.

They approached the Forum Shopping Centre with the idea of creating a pop-up gallery, where members of the public could enjoy the fruits of their labour. The team at the centre was only too happy to help allowing the artists to use two shop spaces which were empty and transform them into a mini-gallery for a week-long exhibition.

Chris’ project, called Everyday Aesthetics, focused on audience engagement with modern art exhibitions. Using the idea of the ‘everyday’, he curated work from six artists that observe their surroundings and record their own visual experiences through the camera lens. Some of this work was abstract and obscure, challenging the viewer to interpret the image and subsequently realising a shared visual knowledge.

His aim was to connect with people who often find modern art inaccessible and enable them to find the beauty in everyday items.

Tom’s exhibition focused on digital art and how items can be viewed in a different way and “change when they are digitised”.

Chris said: “We approached the Forum Shopping Centre about our idea and they were really supportive and helpful. It’s been a very rewarding experience and an eclectic mix of people took the time to look at our work and give us positive feedback.”

Tom said: “We’re part of the first year to do the MRes in Art and Design and it was really exciting to see how our work was received by the public. Everyone we spoke to enjoyed seeing our work and said they’d like to see more contemporary art in Chester.”

Chris and Tom have both carried out their studies while working full-time at the University’s Kingsway Campus.

Head of the department of art and design Professor Neil Grant said: “Chester has very limited provision for showing contemporary visual art. Therefore, the opportunity to experiment with a pop-up exhibition strategy was very welcome. There is a great deal of empty retail space in the city and the two artists have been very focussed in exploiting this type of space by presenting their work to a very high standard, which was appreciated by the public and which I hope will encourage developers and property owners to consider supporting further projects of this kind.”

Forum Shopping Centre manager Lawrence Allen said: “We were delighted to offer our support to the University of Chester. Chris and Tom’s pop-up gallery was very well received by our shoppers, who appreciated the new experience and enjoyed the opportunity to look at their contemporary art.”

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