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The Big Switch

Say hello to the newest member of the family!

The Birmingham Contemporary Art Gallery is the newest art gallery to grace the city’s arts community and its aim is to offer a unique and hybrid experience in art to the public…and it sits right outside Arena Birmingham!

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Run by husband and wife team, Albert and Sarah Wallace, the gallery boasts 1600 square feet of space and is situated on the Arena Birmingham complex in a contemporary, triangular shaped glass building, overlooking the picturesque Brindley Place canal.

Albert is an artist who has always had a passion for developing alternative concepts of art and using that as a backdrop for promoting new ideas. He has also managed residential establishments that specialise in children and young people with complex mental health needs, associated learning difficulties and challenging behaviours.

Sarah has run her own marketing and PR recruitment business since 2011 and has always been an entrepreneur at heart. With their shared vision they decided to combine their expertise and passion and create something unique, original and beautiful.

Part of this vision is to provide a platform that is accessible to local, regional and national
artists who would like a more direct and simple way to interact with art galleries, art buyers and the general public.  Albert Wallace said “we want go back to the old days where there were no restrictions between the artist and the gallery and to create an openness where the artist, whether it's a college graduate, a professional or a self-taught artist, feels able to walk into the gallery and present their work, ask questions and get feedback there and then”. 

In addition many galleries can be intimidating places for people who don’t know about art.  The BCAG has created a haven of peace and tranquillity that is inclusive to everyone, where people can browse around the artwork, feel comfortable asking questions, or come to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy some peace and quiet. 

Classical and ambient music is used to match with every piece of artwork, revealing the artists’ inspiration and reason behind their work and helping the viewers connect to the work on display.

As well as this, a major part of their vision is around how art can provide a more prescriptive solution in addressing mental health and wellbeing not only for individuals, but also for groups and corporate workforces.  A government commissioned report released in 2017 found that 300,000 people leave their jobs each year because of mental health problems, at an annual estimated cost to the UK economy of up to £99 billion.  This is huge and while a lot of companies are now recognising that a happy workforce equals a more productive one and are investing more into their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing, there is a lot more than can be done.   

Art can be used to enhance the quality of the workplace for individuals as well as teams of professionals, including utilising art in the workplace as a means of motivation and inspiration.  Taking time to colour or create images can reduce stress, promote relaxation, and help solve problems and group art therapy can help individuals in better understanding and valuing their peers.  It connects the imagination to the body and allows the expression of feelings that a person can’t express in words.  On a more individual basis, mindfulness based art therapy techniques have been proven to help with all manner of mental health issues including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, depressive disorders, stress related issues and anger related issues.  It has also been proven to help with physiological concerns such as different types of cancer and coronary artery disease.    

The BCAG is committed in its intention to give something back to the local community and they will be supporting Birmingham Mind and Homeless One, both local charities.  Many people who are homeless are often experiencing mental health issues and are more than likely to have been exposed to multiple traumatic events.  Practising art helps to process trauma through a process called haptic perception, which links movement to emotional centres in the brain.  It can help to explore feelings, reconcile emotions, manage behaviour and addictions, develop social skills, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.  Many who are homeless or vulnerably housed tend to struggle with depression, emotional issues, long-term addictions and social anxieties.  Through art as therapy, those who are homeless are better able to deal with their personal situations, distract themselves from sadness and restore a sense of personal well-being.

Through the use of technology, ambient music, art tools and a team of qualified art therapists, artists and a yoga teacher, we have planned programmes and services that will take place throughout the coming year. 

This unique space is also perfect for hosting a wide range of events, from exhibitions, product launches, workshops and book openings, to business meetings, networking events, community sponsored events, live painting sessions, yoga classes and much more.  

The gallery is set to become a prominent place to meet and connect with different people in the art world, have a debate about art, immerse yourself in the beauty of the art on the walls and feel energised and revitalised by the time you leave.