When students are asked why they choose Birmingham as home for three or four years of their life, they might say, ‘It’s a great University for my course’, ‘I hear the nightlife is fantastic!’ or ‘I want to live in a big city, experience a city lifestyle’. An aspect of Birmingham that is too often overlooked by people our age is the cultural scene, and with as well-reputed a gallery as the Barber Institute of Fine Arts situated on campus, it should be unavoidable. For those of you who might be reading this and thinking that your loan doesn’t stretch to luxuries like art gallery visits, or trips to the theatre – it’s time to put away that tired excuse, roll out of bed, and make the familiar walk to campus. The Art Bus is here to give students a well needed injection of culture.
For those of us who will be spending the next week of term summoning twenty pence pieces from the crevices of our wallets in order to buy that well-deserved Rooster House, you need only know one thing about the Art Bus – It’s free! It will cost you absolutely nothing to visit six phenomenal art galleries.
Starting at the student friendly time of 12.10 pm from the Barber, passengers had the privilege of visiting the MAC, the Ikon Gallery, the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Eastside Projects. With a fantastically frequent bus service, we were allowed to spend as much time at each gallery as we chose. With some spectacular exhibitions on offer, we were forced to drag ourselves away in order to get to the next destination.
Highlights included the hauntingly memorable images of ‘The Unseen’ exhibition at Ikon, which focuses on the complexity of seeing, blindness, and envisaging. With images from a diverse range of artists, coming from countries as far flung as China, as well as some homegrown talent, The Unseen doesn’t fail to bring chills to the spectator. The ‘Love and Death: Victorian Paintings from Tate’ exhibition at BMAG offers visitors the chance to see works from the Tate Gallery, the centerpiece of which is Waterhouse’s ‘Lady of Shalott’. Based on Tennyson’s dark and twisted ballad, the masterpiece draws you into a macabre, and almost frightening world. For those who prefer their art to be 3D and a little different, Eastside Projects offers ‘Abstract Possible: The Birmingham Beat’. Situated in a bright, minimalist warehouse, wonderfully weird sculptures in primary colours brought the viewer an odd sense of calm, as well as offering an insight into the history of abstract art.
The curator at the Barber Institute was delighted to tell me that the Art Bus has increased dramatically in popularity, provoking their decision to introduce the tour as a day event. So, the next time the Art Bus invites you on board, I couldn’t recommend more highly that you step on. With no fare for passengers, you have nothing to lose – only a thought-provoking and highly enjoyable day to gain.