Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Introducing South Square Gallery’s Curatorial Traineeship Programme

Current Curatorial Trainee Clare Nadal writes

In February 2013 I began my ACE funded Curatorial Traineeship ran by South Square Gallery in partnership with the Hepworth Wakefield. The scheme aims to provide support for an aspiring curator by providing hands-on experience of developing and delivering South Square Gallery’s artistic programme, culminating in the opportunity to research and curate a show in the gallery. The trainee also has chance to undertake a placement with the Collections and Exhibitions team at the Hepworth Wakefield and gain experience of working on contemporary art exhibitions and/or museum collections in an organisation of international significance.

The scheme has been running since 2007 and has a proven success rate with trainees going on to secure employment within the arts sector or pursue further study. Trainee Stephen White secured a full-time job as an Assistant Curator at the Walker Gallery, Liverpool in 2008, whilst Elizabeth Holdsworth, trainee in 2011, has recently been awarded a place at the Royal College of Art to study Critical Writing in Art and Design. Most recent trainee Helen Thackray is soon to begin a job working as Community Programmer at Nottingham Contemporary.

Speaking about her experience of the traineeship, Helen said: “Working amongst the small team of staff and volunteers at South Square Gallery was a unique and hugely rewarding experience. The excellent balance of support and freedom offered by all of my colleagues has allowed me to take on responsibilities and explore my own interests and ideas, whilst always having the cushion of a team of professionals to give me advice and help where ever I needed it.”

My placement at The Hepworth Wakefield gave the invaluable opportunity to work in a large national gallery. Not only was I able to assist with the installation of exhibitions by artists such as Richard Long and Luke Fowler, I was also taught specific skills such as condition reporting and art handling."

With this in mind, I have taken time to reflect upon my first two months as Curatorial Trainee and the experiences I have gained. Look out for further updates from me in the forthcoming months!

Personal and Geographical Journeying

It was with a mixture of nerves and excitement that I boarded the Cross Country train from Sheffield to Leeds for the first time on the morning of Wednesday 25th February, a now highly familiar journey. There is a reason I have spoken of ‘Journeying’ in this blog title, for it seems that in the last two months I have undertaken so many different journeys and not just of the physical kind. Commuting to an unfamiliar city each week has become quite the adventure for me, one I have eagerly lapped up, desirous for change and challenges after months of soul destroying job hunting. Finally I have been able to join my fellow graduates in gaining the sought after ‘proper job’ and begin to engage in professional development within curatorial practice, meet other curators and artists, and build networks and contacts.

I am very much enjoying working in a rural gallery setting, being used to predominantly urban arts organisations, and thus it has provided me with the chance to observe the different practices adopted by the two. Escaping to the beautiful rural Thornton once a week has in itself become soul-southing, there is a reason why they call Yorkshire ‘God’s own country’.

One of the greatest things I have found about the traineeship is the level of importance of my role within the organisation. Though this initially seemed daunting, I have found it to be an invaluable experience. For the first time I have had a real key role and responsibility in decision making and managing the artistic programme, and my opinions are always very highly valued and considered. This has helped me to gain confidence to put forward suggestions in a very supportive environment.

I have had the opportunity to meet exhibiting artists David McLeavy, Sally Barker and Stuart Rushworth and discuss their work in detail, and from this produce interpretative materials and articles. This has not only given me the chance to engage with artworks at an in depth critical level, but also develop my writing style, considering issues of tone and audience. From this I have rediscovered my passion for writing, and have now taken responsibility for the South Square blog and am excited about developing ideas for future articles. I am also hoping to take my writing beyond the traineeship and think about blogging regularly and writing articles for local arts publications.

In February I was able to help co-curate the MA Visual Art students from Bradford College’s ‘Work in Progress’ show. From this I learnt about some of the issues involved in curating a group show as well as specific technical skills and theory of picture hanging. Since then I have also been involved with curating David McLeavy’s solo exhibition Villa, a show that in its very nature brings attention to the curatorial process. (See my previous blog for further discussion of this).

I also attended the February meeting of the Yorkshire Curators Group where I was able to meet both institution based and freelance curators from around the region and hear updates from a variety of galleries. As part of the meeting (held at Cartwright Hall) we were given walking tours of the current exhibitions by their respective curators. Being able to hear curators speak about developing shows and the curatorial decisions made was a brilliant opportunity for me. I hope to go to the next group meeting in May!

I am currently on the selection panel for selecting an artist for our summer residency, as well commissioning an artist to develop a body of work at South Square Gallery and the Bronte Parsonage. I have begun to review and update the gallery’s marketing contacts start building a comprehensive database in which to store these. I am excited to be beginning my placement at the Hepworth Wakefield in a few weeks when I shall be assisting with the de-install of the current Alice Channer, Linder and Jessica Jackson Hutchins exhibitions and the install of the new Haroon Mirza exhibition. I am looking forward to working in such a well renowned organisation and gaining new experiences and knowledge.   

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