Having looked at the various work placement opportunities on offer; I decided to apply for the role of Gallery Programmes Assistant at ARC (Art Recovery in the Community), Stockport: a charitable, creative arts organisation specialising in mental health, wellbeing and community development. The description of the organisation immediately caught my eye as it was completely different to the sphere in which I have previously worked (an archivist within various corporate environments) and offered the opportunity to acquire new skills within a more community based/holistic environment.
Set within an old factory on a trading estate in Reddish, ARC’s facilities include a gallery with a regularly changing programme of exhibitions, a café, shop and various art studios. As well as the programmes for vulnerable adults and young people, ARC also runs a series of arts workshops which are open to the public; recent courses have included ceramic pot throwing, silk scarf printing and photography for social media.
The organisation currently employs four full time members of staff (CEO, Artistic Director, Community Outreach Officer and the Programme Co-ordinator) and four part time/contract staff (Centre Manager, Administrator, Financial Advisor and Marketing Officer). The programme co-ordinator also manages two social work students from Salford University who volunteer for a period of ninety days as part of their course requirements.
Since starting work in October 2016, I have helped to curate several exhibitions (Art Bazaar, PAPER Transformed, Young People’s ARC and Ewa Konior’s Presence) and have worked with both paid/contracted staff as well as the volunteer assistants (most of whom are current/previous ARC clients). The role itself has been very varied and I have acquired several new skills, (cognitive and practical), including creating social media posts for Facebook using Canva (Artist spotlight profiles), caption writing, hanging works of art (by colour, artist, shape), merchandising (stocking the shop, deciding what to put out to sell), fundraising (selling raffle tickets at the annual art bazaar), cold calling (ringing galleries within Cheshire and Manchester to invite them to private viewings), liaison with artists and even how to spray mount captions on to form board and to cut them out (although they are still slightly wiggly and in this area I definitely need more practice)!!
At times the role has been challenging (ethics/boundary issues/working with vulnerable volunteers) but it has also been extremely informative and inspirational, so much so that I have decided to base my dissertation topic around the idea of art as a therapy for mental restoration and am planning on using ARC as one of my case studies.