I have a particular interest in the use of arts as a tool for wellbeing, so when I was allocated a placement at Arc it felt like the perfect match. Arc Centre and Gallery in Reddish, Stockport are a small arts organisation who engage local communities in various creative workshops to increase participants’ wellbeing, develop skills and combat isolation as an aid to mental health recovery.

My role as the Gallery Assistant entailed a variety of responsibilities in the project planning for new exhibitions. This included  social media and website marketing,  organising artists’ family activities for the Saturday Art Clubs and preparatory research. Writing press releases and constructing the social media campaigns allowed me to direct my creative writing, whilst becoming more attuned to the language used when targeting different audiences. Prioritising my workload in this area was difficult, but with a willing team of volunteers it was possible to share the workload.

I feel the biggest challenge and most rewarding experience of my placement was curating the Wellbeing exhibition Unlocking Creativity: Transforming Lives. During this planning, I met weekly with the Senior Project Managers, who set the brief as generating awareness of Arc’s work and attracting necessary funding streams. I worked alongside volunteer Sue and we became a productive team, rummaging through countless art works which participants had left behind, from small scraps of experiments inspired by Klimt, to huge rolls of Pollock-esque action paintings.

Responsibilities were spread across a small workforce, so I was able to complete a large amount of work from each team. As a fifth member of the Wellbeing exhibition team, alongside the two Project Managers and two volunteers, I feel that my fresh perspective and previous experience of curation brought a structured method to the aesthetic arrangement and narrative of displays. During our team brainstorming sessions, I made suggestions for the exhibition name and offered to write the introductory panels which were successfully accepted.

Selecting artworks with Sue proved to be a huge task, involving elements of archival organisation and basic conservation skills when handling delicate works. I was also presented with various documents, from which I had to select participant quotes for display. This task presented me with some truly touching personal experiences, highlighting more directly the huge impact Arc has on people’s lives. My role in transforming the Gallery space was incredibly rewarding. During my experience of working with Arc’s small team, I came to realise how exhibition and event planning can be high pressure with such short time scales, low budgets and the essential work of volunteers. Liaising with artists has developed my skills in directing ideas and leading on practical arrangements with a professional approach. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and eye-opening experience of my placement at Arc.

 

Arc Centre
Arc Centre and Gallery (Photo Credit: Arc)

 

Iona Shaw is studying for an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the Institute for Cultural Practices.