Sam Pickard, who’s been working with us, in Partnership with South Square agreed to write a post for us to share the experiences she’s had as our Exhibition and Events Intern.
In April last year, I was fortunate enough to be selected to take part in a year-long traineeship programme working within South Square Centre, in partnership with Bradford Museums and Galleries. Now, as my time as Exhibition and Events Trainee nears its end, I am able to reflect on the incredible experiences that I have had working within these wonderful galleries and museums.
Working with Exhibitions Curator, Sonja Kielty, across many of the Bradford Museums & Galleries’ sites, including; Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford Industrial Museum, Manor House, and Cliffe Castle, I have had the opportunity to work on many exciting exhibitions and events, varying from the contemporary Fine Art Painting of Tai-Shan Schierenberg, to the children’s literature and illustration exhibition, A Squash and a Squeeze. As I couldn’t possibly write about each and every exhibition, I have chosen a few of my personal highlights, to demonstrate the fantastic range of experience that this traineeship has offered.
A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Stories with Julia Donaldson
28th June – 9th November 2014
My first Bradford Museums & Galleries exhibition was a real change to any other exhibition experience I had gained previously. My background had been mostly Fine Art, Contemporary Craft, and Design focused, so to jump straight into a Literature and Illustration exhibition, aimed at a very young audience, was quite refreshing. From the stealth-like operation of smuggling a life-sized Gruffalo into the building without him being seen by curious onlookers, to the sight of excited children scrambling to dress up as their favourite characters from the books, this exhibition certainly left a lasting impression on me and on Cartwright Hall.
As this was a touring exhibition from Seven Stories (the National Centre for Children’s Books), I had the fantastic opportunity to work with one of their Collections team who showed me how they check the condition of the original artworks. This is done so that any changes to the artwork can be documented and actions can be taken to prevent or repair any damage.
Working with the Natural Science specimens was another new experience for me. I was asked to create a ‘sea-bed’ display (inspired by the Tiddler story) as an educational aid for children, using crabs, starfish, and other marine specimens from Bradford’s collections. Being given free-reign really got my creative juices flowing and I found that, although a bit apprehensive at first, I quite enjoyed this particular task (I even able to flourish the display with a few shells from my friend’s personal collection).
Summer at South Square
Working on the children’s exhibition, A Squash and a Squeeze, led quite appropriately into my first project at South Square – a range of family orientated art activities, set up within the gallery over the school summer holidays. Coming up with fun and unique activities that would engage children, whilst at the same time teach them about basic art theory was a challenge, but it was one that I found I could really throw myself into. To be perfectly honest, I was enjoying the task so much that I couldn’t quite believe that what I was doing was actually work!
Another of my summer projects at South Square was the Artists & Makers Fair, held to coincide with the annual Open Studios event. This was a dream opportunity for me as I have a real passion for Contemporary Craft. I sent out an open-call for artists and makers to take part, researched and made selections from the applicants, promoted the event through social media and print, and then curated the gallery space once work had been delivered. As the team at South Square is sizably smaller than at Cartwright Hall, I found out just how much work goes into planning and carrying out an event like this, although by in being involved in every aspect I was able to gain a great deal of valuable experience and knowledge, which I have since been able to call upon numerous times to my benefit.
Sam Shendi – Only Human, & Ruth Fettis – Here We Live
13th August 2014 – 22nd February 2015, & 24th January – 10th May 2015
For these two exhibitions I was able to work directly with the artists, which was something that I had been keen to do from the start of my traineeship. The experience of helping to make display decisions and installing their work was a thrill, combined with the fascinating conversations and insight into their careers as professional artists. Making contacts and networking is a huge part of working in the art sector, so I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet and get to know these highly respected and influential artists.
Knit, objects from the Crafts Council Collection
25th February – 23rd August 2015
I was a little bit excited to say the least when I learnt that I would be working on this Crafts Council Collection exhibition, as I am a huge admirer of the work that they do in promoting Contemporary Craft in the UK. In the months before the exhibition opened, I acted as the main contact for the Crafts Council’s Hothouse makers, who were invited to exhibit their work alongside the collection objects (Hothouse is the Crafts Council’s annual programme for emerging makers). One of my responsibilities was to collate information from the makers about the work that they would be exhibiting, this information consisted of; title of the work, material, measurements, sale price, insurance value, and display instructions. All of this information assisted the Curator when planning the layout of the gallery space.
When it was time to install the exhibition, I was thrilled to be able to work alongside the Crafts Council’s Assistant Collections Manager in making decisions about the placement of objects, rigorously condition checking each piece, cleaning certain pieces with very specific museum-standard equipment, and looking at appropriate light levels on certain light-sensitive objects.
In the Making. . . traineeship project at South Square
2nd February – 29th March 2015
A big part of my traineeship programme was that I would have the chance to plan, organise, and carry out my own project at South Square, to conclude my time as Exhibition and Events Trainee. So, in November last year, I began developing ideas about what I would like to do. I was so grateful for the traineeship as an opportunity to learn, that I felt that I wanted to give something back. I decided that I could use my acquired knowledge of Contemporary Craft and experience over the last 8 months, to create a programme of events and exhibitions aimed at developing the careers of emerging artists and makers.
Now just two weeks away from it’s end, the In the Making. . . project has been a true labour of love, having to consider every tiny detail of a project (many of which I had never even considered) is completely and utterly all-encompassing, not leaving much room for a social life, but has also been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences. Implementing my newly acquired skills and know-how has given me a great sense of achievement, and I can only hope that the project has been as beneficial to it’s audience and participating artists, as it has to my own career and personal development.
Having the opportunity to work so closely with a lot of the artists and makers involved has been one of the highlights for me. The mutual respect for one-another’s roles is key to a successful exhibition, so when the two elements of artist and curator come together to work cohesively, it really produces the best results possible.
For more information about the In the Making. . . exhibitions and events, please visit www.southsquarecentre.co.uk
Finally, I would like to thank all of the wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of working with, across all of the Bradford Museums and Galleries’ sites and at South Square Centre. These incredible people work tirelessly to give the people of Bradford and visitors from further afield, a vast spectrum of cultural enjoyment. Their dedicated work helps to firmly place Bradford on the map as a key arts and heritage hub in the North, and I thank them for allowing me to be a part of that.