I was first introduced to AOFS traineeship by my progression coach at Crisis who knew of my interest in visual arts. I had a relaxed and informal interview with Rachel (Participation Co-ordinator for Arts at the Old Fire Station), filled out an application form and a few days later was told I was accepted onto the 10-week traineeship. I was overjoyed! I am not presently employed so to know that some of my time would be positively used being involved in a arts project felt like a step in the right direction.
I was told that the traineeship would cater to my interests and that this would guide how my sessions where planned and what could be offered. I am interested in the behind the scenes aspect of what goes on in an arts centre and more specifically how a gallery is run, how the programme of exhibitions is put together and what it takes to get an exhibition to the public. And that is exactly what I have learned.
I was introduced to aspects of this by discussing with Sarah Mossop, the Visual Arts Programme Manager, and meeting with the Director, Jeremy Spafford, to learn about how AOFS is funded and what its ethos is – which is basically inclusion and art for all. I then helped Becki take down and then install three exhibitions and this was the best fun and most interesting part of the traineeship.
The public walks into a nice clean white space with art hung to perfection – behind the scenes you start to understand the need for different approaches to each exhibition, and that things will be hung differently with different screws and brackets. There are a host of considerations to keep the art safe, secure, the artist happy and the public able to view it at eye level!
I have worked on three exhibitions now (Kazem Hakimi: Portraits From A Chip Shop, Pareidolia and Transcending The Signified) and helped to take down small pieces of art work, polyfilla holes in the walls, paint, making the space ready for the next exhibition. Moving from Pareidolia to Transcending The Signified was especially interesting, as we moved from smaller paintings to really large canvases which required a different approach to hanging and presenting to the public. I was really pleased on the exhibition opening night when I took my friends and proudly showed them were I had polyfilled and painted walls and how I helped to manoeuvre and hang such a large canvas!
So it’s safe to say that this was probably my most enjoyable part as I got to be really practical and helpful, learned about wall brackets and screws (a major consideration for every exhibition!) and that the gallery’s walls are not as flat and straight as they may seem! I also got to talk directly with each artist and learn their story of how their work got to the gallery and discuss the work and their reasons for wanting to display at AOFS – it’s for emerging artists, it’s a good exhibition space and a local arts centre. I was also lucky to volunteer at an art workshop with members of the public, with the artist in attendance. Seeing how other art lovers responded to an exhibition I helped to put up was very humbling and enjoyable and to see them leave with new art skills was a lovely feeling.
My traineeship is now coming to an end and although I am sad I am further encouraged that a career in the arts sector is for me. I am hoping to volunteer and to continue to help with exhibitions and I will be applying to study humanities and then hopefully go on to study art history in the future. But mainly I will take away with the me memories of a very knowledgeable, kind and encouraging staff team at Arts at the Old Fire Station who, alongside Crisis want to open the door to the arts, in its many forms, to all.