The Artist Volunteer

I wasn’t sure whether to call this ‘The Artist Volunteer” or “Volunteering Within the Arts” because the world of art isn’t just about the artists, it embraces the audience to.  I chose the first though as it is more pertinent to my own experience.  What exactly is an artist volunteer?  Quite simply any artist, whether a student, emerging or returning artist, passionate about art and wanting to engage with their peers, learn from them, connect with them and in turn hopefully grow their own professional practice and networks.

I decided to volunteer at two events, Spon Spun Festival 17 and the inaugural Coventry Biennial.  Spon Spun Festival is an annual event in Coventry and this is its second year.  With events and workshops through July, August and September leading up to the

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festival weekend which includes an Arts Trail, events and picnic.  It is a festival which is very community orientated, focusing on the Spon End area of Coventry.  As a volunteer I have already received training in Safeguarding and also in Event Management.  Next week I will attend a full day’s First Aid training.  Three more skills to add to my CV which will be beneficial in the future for work and commission opportunities in art festivals and for work/commissions within the learning and engagement sector.  Within my role as a volunteer I am also documenting all the events throughout the festival alongside Andy Nelson who is providing the photo documentation.  This will be beneficial to me as I want writing to be a key part of my professional practice and although this is writing in the form of documenting and not reviewing it will still give me valuable experience and can also be added to my CV.  For Andy it is a valuable opportunity to gain experience in documentary photography which he to can add to his CV.  As if all this wasn’t fantastic enough I will also be meeting with commissioned artists which will broaden my network further.

As a volunteer with the Coventry Biennial I have already benefited, as it was through the recruitment process with them that I got the opportunity to learn about and volunteer with Spon Spun Festival.  As an inaugural event it is also a rare opportunity to learn how an event of this size emerges from the idea stage through to a fully realised event and the

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many components that go into launching a Biennial.  As a volunteer there is an opportunity to learn more about: preparation, installation and take down of art works; installation and set-up of AV equipment; invigilation of exhibitions – how do you talk about the art work to the public?; delivering workshops and engaging the local community and wider public.  All of these will enhance your knowledge and experience.

Add all of the above with the opportunity to work alongside fellow artists and who knows what future projects will present themselves from the conversations that will develop.

I shall continue to share my thoughts and experiences, not only to encourage other students, emerging artists but also so I have a written record to refer back to when writing my dissertation.

It would be great to hear the experiences of others who have trodden this path.  Was it a negative or a positive experience for you?  Did it help you progress your professional practice?  Or are you an established artist who has benefited from the help of volunteers? Comment below or if you prefer you can e-mail me at helennelsonart@gmail.com