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This week we are celebrating Voluntary Arts Week. In today's blog we hear more from Volunteer Gallery Steward, Helen Slater. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I studied in Fine Art in Brighton and went on to work in the design industry, where I enjoyed working with many weird and wonderful brands from all over the world, ranging from Russian shampoo and Chinese beer, through to the Dutch tram network and an English airport.

After living and working in London for almost twenty years, I moved to the Sussex countryside with my husband where I was able to unleash my passion for gardening and spend more time on developing my own creative practice. I still work up in London on occasion, but volunteering at Jerwood Gallery is a great antidote.

How long have you been volunteering at Jerwood Gallery?

Since April 2015.

How have you found your experience so far?

It's a privilege to enjoy the space and peace of the gallery and being able to get know the collection in more depth. The more I look at a painting, the more there is to discover and it's fantastic to have that opportunity. I've become quite attached to several paintings I probably wouldn't have taken the time to look at properly as a regular visitor.

My favourite time is when the gallery is quiet first thing in the morning, this is when the space is at its most peaceful and sometimes, it feels like I'm in my own private gallery, it's almost meditative. But I also really enjoy talking to the visitors and I've learned a lot from the conversations I've had, particularly in relation to the recent John Bratby exhibition, where many of the visitors knew the artist himself and were keen to share their stories. The response to the Rachel Howard exhibition was also fascinating, as many visitors were surprised and challenged by the paintings and were keen to talk about them.

Jerwood Gallery has a vibrant atmosphere. It would be hard to find a better location, the views out to sea are like works of art in themselves, the gallery team is fun and friendly and there's plenty of variety with changing exhibitions and different pieces from the collection. Volunteering is a great way to learn about what's going on in art now, as well as develop my knowledge of art history. 

You also volunteer for the gallery’s Marketing team, what does this involve? 

Talking to visitors about their expectations and experience of visiting the gallery. This helps the marketing team learn about who is and who isn't visiting, so they're able to target their marketing activity appropriately. The discussion is via a simple questionnaire. It only takes a few minutes, but once most people get going they seem to enjoy talking about their experiences and I've heard some great stories, but not all of them to do with the gallery!

Find out more about Voluntary Arts Week.

09 May, 2016
Written by Helen Slater