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

How long have you been volunteering at Jerwood Gallery?

I've been volunteering at Jerwood Gallery (which I love passionately!) since the volunteer programme began and I have met some very interesting folk.  I became a member of the gallery and Hastings Arts Forum as soon as I arrived in Hastings!

When did you begin creating art?

I've been painting all my life.

Which artist has most inspired you? 

Many of my relatives were artists and were a strong influence. I think it’s in my genes! In teenage years I was part of a group of passionate and very creative young artists who regularly met to paint, practice life drawing and talk about artists like Kandinsky, Rothko and Klee etc. (3 of my favourites).

I've always loved art from all cultures. After leaving school, I entered a Buddhist ashram and whilst learning to meditate and dwell on the nature of mind, I discovered Tibetan iconography (thanka painting) many aspects of which I incorporated into my own art.

What made you decide to become an artist?

I never really 'decided' to become an artist. Being an artist was/is always what I am - at a very fundamental level. It’s not just to do with painting but with perception and awareness too. 

As a young woman I went to live on Tobago in the West Indies and could make a living from my art there as the cost of living was low and there were fairly wealthy visitors to buy my paintings. I exhibited quite often. The African influence on the island's culture strongly influenced my art as well as the Amerindian culture.

Other influences and inspirations have been world mythologies, a deep interest in 'mystery' - from philosophy to quantum mechanics, to the evolution of culture and consciousness, and a profound love of nature.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement was probably my first solo exhibition in Trinidad, which I worked really hard to actualize. Over 60 paintings that took almost 3 years to paint. Getting them framed and over to the gallery in Port of Spain, Trinidad, from where I was living as a hermit in the remote rainforest of Tobago, was a huge effort. 

The private view was very surreal, an exotic mix of government ministers, various ambassadors and the zany elite of the Trinidad art world made for a memorable night.
I've been back in England over 3 years now and had a successful debut U.K. show in Hastings. I had work at an exhibition in San Francisco last July and this May I'll be exhibiting in Hungary at the Integral European Conference.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

The most important lesson life has taught me is undoubtedly that we create our own reality both as individuals and collectively as the human race. We need to be responsible and aware - not in a heavy, contracted, controlling way but wise, joyous, inspiring, open and collaborative. 

In the words of the philosopher Ken Wilber - we need to wake up, grow up and step up!

11 May, 2016
Written by Jennifer Baird