Before starting my placement, I had never visited the Waterside Art Centre and I knew very little about the place. What attracted me to choose its placement opportunity was the project rather than the institution. I was very intrigued by the idea of assisting an exhibition from its planning phase to its realisation. What’s more, the fact that the project was an open exhibition excited me as that meant I would get to collaborate with many artists working in different fields, from visual art to craft and design. Also, the idea of not knowing what kind of artworks I would be dealing with until the very end of the project was very interesting because it subverted the standard exhibition making processes which I have learnt in class.
It seemed to me extremely appropriate to combine practice with theory through the choice of a work placement. During the period in which I collaborated on the Open 2016 at the Waterside, as part of my MA in Art Gallery and Museum studies I took the course ‘Business Strategies for the Arts’, which taught me the strategies of project planning in the art sector. Therefore, the placement I chose served to better, and in practice understand, the theories I was learning in class.
The objective of my placement was to develop managerial skills in relation to artistic projects. In fact, I was assigned the role of project assistant, which meant supervising – together with the project manager – every aspect of the Open exhibition 2016, from publicising the event to engaging with a targeted audience, refining procedures and conditions for audience participation, finding sponsors, and finally curating and installing the show. The possibility to assist with such a variety of tasks helped me understand in practical terms how a decision for one aspect of the project can be felt negatively or positively on all other parts. This has taught me the importance of pondering decisions and having a contingency plan in place prior to any move you make, especially when counting on audience participation for the success of an exhibition.
I can definitely say that I am really glad I chose to collaborate with the small team of the Waterside. Besides guiding me through a professional development, they have been extremely supportive and helpful whenever I could not hold my own curiosity down. The exhibition we managed to set up together reinforced my desire to work within contemporary art and gave me a solid base to believe audience development planning is a path I would like to pursue in my future career in this sector.