By Claire Simmons, Engagement Officer – Young People
We have spent two days in the company of Rediat, Fatima and Colleen – young emerging creatives from Rising Arts Agency.
They have been working as paid Young Arts Consultants, exploring our art collections in store and in the galleries and discussing our art programme with curators Kate Newnham, Jenny Gaschke and Julia Carver.
We wanted to know what is in our art collections that interests and inspires them, and if there is anything that we can do to ensure our art offer is relevant to young people, especially those from backgrounds currently under-represented in the arts.
The consultants also spent time with our Marketing Officer, Lauren MacCarthy and our Digital Officer Fay Curtis. We got some really insightful feedback about how we use our social media channels (learning we need more Instagram content), and they learned what it was like to work for our organisation (fun and exciting, if rather squeezed when you’re covering multiple sites and activities).
Other highlights of the programme were visiting our art conservator, Helen Dowding, and examining an x-ray of a painting that had a secret painting underneath; plus a trip to the art store to see the many paintings in storage, as well as our East Asian collections.
The programme ended with the consultants providing us with their findings via short presentations. What was surprising about the consultant’s feedback was that their tastes were very diverse. I had anticipated that they would strongly prefer the work in the modern art gallery, but in actual fact each consultant rated a number of works from European Old Masters, the Bristol School, and Victorian collections as well.
What we did realise was that our curator’s tours and introductions to these works were the key to the young people’s engagement with these pieces, which has got us thinking about what other ways are there to unlock seemingly inaccessible pieces to new audiences who may otherwise walk past them?
The consultants were equally critical as well as complimentary about our collection, expressing their desire for there to be more space allocated to display contemporary art, and works by more non-European and BAME artists, and female artists from the past 100 years.
Finally, we discussed ways that we might be able to include more young emerging creatives in our organisation, especially those from backgrounds that are less represented in the arts and heritage sectors.
A more detailed summary of their feedback and our responses will be published on this blog later this summer.