One of the appeals of joining the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies programme at the University of Manchester is the option to undertake a work placement. I saw the placement module as an opportunity to increase my knowledge of working in the cultural sector. My particular areas of interest are arts engagement and management so I was pleased to learn I would be starting a Community Engagement placement developing the arts and cultural initiatives at Europia, a charity in Manchester.
Europia supports, empowers and educates Eastern and Central European migrants and their communities living in Manchester. Europia celebrates and promotes culture and achieves this partly through the delivery of various literary and social events including language classes, story-telling sessions, cultural presentations and film screenings. One of the main objectives of my placement was to develop Europia’s Art and Culture department in order to broaden the organisation’s focus and exploration of the arts.
This involved organising and delivering visual arts-based activities for children at community events in Ashton-under-Lyne. These focused on important subjects relevant to Europia’s public; I helped children to explore identity through production of a hand-made Tree of Identity, and Hate Crime through facilitating their creation of comic strips and superheroes. This included a Mr. Stampy, a superhero crime-fighting cat with powerful boots and an elastic tail!
Fulfilling this objective also entailed establishing a database of artists with the intention of facilitating their partnerships and collaborations with Europia. Their joint delivery of future projects and events will provide opportunities for Europia’s public to participate in a broader range of arts- and cultural-based activities that are both enjoyable and support their personal and social development and well being. The community’s completion of the Art and Culture Survey I produced will also ensure delivery of future activities and events that respond to their needs and interests, reinforcing the value of their voice. This questionnaire is available in English, Polish, Russian and Latvian; and although I am sure my translations would have made for an interesting read (!), I worked with a number of Europia volunteers and staff members to offer these options.
My role at Europia has increased my understanding of community organisations, and it has enabled me to gain valuable managerial, administrative and engagement experience. The placement offered me an opportunity to contribute to an organisation and their work, and I will follow the progress of Europia’s Art and Culture department with interest.