Stories from our gallery stewards
I spent an enjoyable week volunteering for SparkedEcho as an exhibition steward for Solace, an audio-visual installation designed to engage people with the natural world.
SparkedEcho ensured I was fully prepared for my role, by sending detailed pre-event information about the project and my stewarding role as well as providing a thorough induction session. Before the exhibition was open to the public I was able to meet and talk to the audio and visual artists, Kevin Grist and Karen Tilley, and was also encouraged to spend time within the immersive installation in order to fully explore the experience. This meant I was able to draw on my own perceptions when talking to visitors over the week.
In terms of preparation for the exhibition, I was involved in setting up the gallery space and the hanging of prints. I was given a brief for purchasing flowers for the event with creative freedom to choose, arrange and display these. Prior to the opening, I was invited to promote the exhibition to local businesses and via social media.
I was able to invite parents with young children in order to involve families in more experimental art. I was also asked to take photographs and short videos at the Private View, for social media and website use, and aimed to capture the busy feel of the event.
My role as a steward involved welcoming visitors to the exhibition, introducing the work of the artists and answering any questions. The thorough induction I had from the team enabled me to feel confident and knowledgeable in this role. I encouraged visitors to leave feedback in the guest book and also to sign up for future sound recording workshops linked to the project. I found that conversations tended to spring up organically, since many visitors had been drawn to Solace because of their love of nature, which I share.
It was a pleasure to work in the historic environment of the Crypt Gallery over the week. Many of our visitors commented on the space and how it complemented the exhibition; particularly by situating the installation down in the Undercroft where parts of the film played out across the thirteenth century walls.
The project Solace asks questions about our relationship to open space and the natural world. I found it interesting to hear people’s response to this and their experience of the installation. Some of the children certainly found it very exciting, many people found it to be deeply relaxing, whilst others found the experience disorientating.
I felt valued as a member of the team over the week, was treated with respect and trusted with certain responsibilities. For example, I was involved in technical aspects such as switching the installation on and off, recorded visitor numbers and took payment for postcard sales. I also took on some admin tasks including creating a spreadsheet and typing visitor feedback, as well as putting together a social media post for SparkedEcho.
The team were very approachable and made it clear they are keen to facilitate work experience in the arts sector through their volunteer programmes. I had the valuable opportunity to talk about my experience, hopes and ideas and felt truly listened to. SparkedEcho have kindly offered to provide work related references if needed. Although a voluntary role, SparkedEcho covered my travel expenses and certainly kept me supplied with good coffee for the week!
By Heather Shann - Exhibition Steward - Solace
I was interested in becoming involved with the Solace exhibition because whilst I had studied art history at university, digital art was something I knew little about, but wanted to find out more about.
I was particularly interested in the nature aspect of the exhibition and the convergence of the digital and natural worlds. Solace is a 10-minute long immersive video installation, taking you on a seasonal journey through various parts of the Sussex countryside, from sunlit fields to swirling snowstorms in woods. The accompanying photographs taken by Karen echoed the sentiments of the film, whilst providing a dreamlike snapshot in black and white which encourage you to look closer at your surroundings next time you’re out in the countryside.
Our role began with assisting with the last of the set up for the exhibition and the preparation for the private view. Throughout the running of the exhibition, we welcomed visitors, kept count of the number for that day and encouraged visitors to leave reflections in the visitor book. We were also tasked with turning the projection and sound on and off at the beginning and end of each day, whilst this initially seemed like a daunting task, thanks to Kevin’s clear instruction became part of the set up routine and helped us feel connected to the process of the exhibition.
Working as a volunteer for the exhibition, gave me many opportunities to engage with visitors and find out what had drawn them to the exhibition and what they thought about it. This instalment of Solace at The Crypt Gallery in Seaford provided an atmospheric setting which enhanced the exhibition. Many visitors to the exhibition knew the gallery well, coming in during their visit to Seaford to see The Crypt’s current exhibition.
Solace created a varied response in visitors, with many telling us how exciting it was for a small seaside town such as Seaford to have an exhibition like Solace, something they would expect to see at Eastbourne’s Towner. Visiting the exhibition provided a relaxing respite from a busy day, and the chance to experience nature in a different way.
For some, Solace was an introduction to a new art form, frequently visitors told us that whilst sound and visual installations were not something they were normally drawn to, the natural elements and sounds combined with the footage being shot locally was really engaging. Responses ranged from finding the experience serene and relaxing to chilling and disorientating, perhaps depending on the stage at which they started watching the video. I think it’s important that the video represented different emotional responses to nature, after all it isn’t always gentle.
Overall there was a really positive response to the artwork, and many people were interested in visiting at the subsequent locations, I know I’m looking forward to seeing how the work responds to the new spaces.
By Pippa Sellers - Exhibition Steward - Solace
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