To celebrate the opening of ‘Outside In: Step Up Showcase – Celebrating 7 Years of Step Up’, we asked curator and Step Up participant Julia to write about her experience of organising the show. The showcase will be in the Studio at Pallant House Gallery from 29 September – 22 November).
“Responsibility and responsibilities are big things. They require a great level of awareness of a situation if no-one is to be offended. The more aware you are the heavier the weight of responsibility is.
One of the first lessons to learn when entering a new environment – or establishment, work place, etc., is to learn who does what and how the structure of responsibility fits into the overall practice and running of the establishment. Then, and only then, can you hope to have a chance of not offending anyone in any shape or form.
I have grasped the responsibility of facilitating a good experience for participants at Pallant House Gallery, which is something that has developed from my work on a social inclusion project before I became ill and my prior and post illness lived experiences of things that cause barriers and isolation. I have a good academic skill base; socially I am quite isolated; and as for the formal work place, that was 12 years ago and I never did develop or grasp the skills of boardroom tactics.
Trying not to personalise this too much and thinking outside of the box and what it might be like for someone in a different establishment, I will endeavour to share how overwhelming responsibility is for someone taking new steps into an area they are not familiar with. First of all I responded with a ‘Yes’ to a project that appealed to me for a variety of reasons.
Ever since my proposal was accepted, I have been having meetings with a plethora of duly qualified staff that are the experts in their field. These came in thick and fast; everybody was talking in terms of a standard that is expected in one of the country’s leading art galleries: very high and very professional. To be honest I didn’t expect anything less, however there is an immense responsibility to perform to this level. It’s like going ’0 to 60mph’ in two seconds and staying on the road. Curating is such a different ball game to research and leading a workshop.
I realise that the current situation is unique as on a course there would be a group of people sharing the tasks, perhaps working in small groups or pairs and feeding back to the course leader, so what I am currently experiencing is artificial in one respect but totally real for me as I am the only one on the other side of the table. So part of me is saying its a dummy run don’t worry and part of me is saying holy s*** all this attention is a lot to deal with.
Then there is the responsibility of curating a ‘Showcase’ exhibition, presenting something at its best, in the best possible way. That’s a massive responsibility even with all the input from the specialists. Then, what ever mine or others disabilities, I know that in some areas I am quite weak or slow when working to a schedule. For me it is physical limitations and lack of confidence after 12 years out of a formal work environment. I’m not sure if it’s a help having had a job in the past or not. What I do know is that things have changed a lot in the past 12 years and there is so much to learn apart from curating.
I hope there can be a balance in the learning. I hope that, even though 70 people have done Step Up courses, I still have something to offer from my lived experience.”
Step Up is the training and professional development arm of Outside In. It offers two courses: Workshop Leaders and Interpreting Collections. Since its inception in 2007, over 70 artists have been trained through these courses. For many of these artists, Step Up has provided further opportunities beyond the programme, including volunteering opportunities with Step Up or Outside In; the chance to participate in Pallant House Gallery’s Learning and Community Programme; running workshops either through Outside in or at other venues; and embarking upon further education courses. Click here for more information on Step Up.
Outside In: Step Up Showcase – Celebrating 7 Years of Step Up will run from 29 September – 22 November 2015 in the Studio at Pallant House Gallery (entry is free).
[Featured Image: Step Up Workshop: Nek Chand, Image courtesy of Andy Hood