My enthusiasm towards art has meant that I have drifted to a brighter world filled with nobility, inspiration, and enlightenment. Art has led me to give up a managerial position in one of the Fortune 500 enterprises CITIC Limited and cross the border to academic pursuit in vibrant Manchester. Ever since I became a student of the MA programme in Arts Management, Policy and Practice at the University of Manchester, the door of art has been widely opened. Numerous opportunities have been offered to prepare me for being a qualified and proficient art practitioner by polishing both my theoretical comprehension and practical experience. It is no exaggeration to say that this programme is full of surprises and  for those who seriously consider locating their career path in art and cultural industry, the SALC Placement is definitely part of that!

Maria Balshaw Introducing the Whitworth in One Learning Programme
Maria Balshaw introducing the Whitworth to the One Learning Programme

I have never thought that I would be placed at the Whitworth Art Gallery which has an international profile and countrywide reputation. Ever since the first day of being a development intern, a journey filled with possibilities started. It is indescribable how lucky I am to have Olga Gribben, the development manager as my placement supervisor. Owing to the considerate arrangement from Olga and Jo Beggs, the Head of Development of Manchester Museums and Galleries Partnership (MMP), I was given a chance to work across the MMP and engage in various amazing and influential programmes, such as the Northern Powerhouse Agenda, the New North and South, theFactory, the Courtyard Development of the Manchester Museum, and the Manchester Cultural Impact Survey led by the Manchester City Council. Apart from the above, I have also attended several conferences discussing future strategic planning for the MMP. Two of them were small-scale and hosted by Maria Balshaw, the Director of Culture for Manchester City Council as well as the Director of the Whitworth and Manchester City Galleries. These above opportunities are unimaginable for an ordinary student like me, and those days I spent with the remarkable art practitioners across the MMP will become a memory for a lifetime.

During the placement, half of the time I worked closely with Olga on fundraising for various programmes within the MMP, especially for the Whitworth. My job content included, but was not limited to developing funding strategies, researching potential funders, writing funding applications, tracking funding programmes, updating the funder spreadsheet and organising commercial sponsorship as well as individual donations. The rest of my work schedule was thoughtfully designed by Olga to provide a real insight into how mature art institutions function effectively and efficiently to reach their visions and fulfill social responsibilities. I have worked with almost all the departments in the Whitworth from the curation group to the gift shop, as well as with the development departments in the Manchester Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery. Whether that related to curating the Deanna Petherbridge exhibition, about planning and implementing learning programmes, about designing and selecting products for the gift shop, about provenance research on permanent collections, about discussing activity plan 2017-18 with policy liaison, about evaluating the Andy Warhol exhibition, or about checking and maintaining facilities with the visitor team. All the staff in MMP had kindly imparted their knowledge and experience to me with a large amount of patience despite the fact I was unskilled in many aspects of the work.

I am still in the process of changing from a novice to a sophisticated art practitioner and I have a long way to go. The unforgettable work experience at the Whitworth and the MMP have ignited my passion. Through the placement, I have developed a conscious self-reflection on my personal capability and this has strengthened my belief in devoting myself to art as a lifelong career. The Whitworth for me, is a place to consolidate academic achievement, to integrate theoretical knowledge and practical experience, and more importantly, to enrich my life experience. I believe success comes from doing what you really love, and under the considerate and professional guidance from the Institute of Cultural Practices, I hope success will arrive much sooner than expected.