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Exhibition and Gallery Assistant
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I wanted to do something different and interesting with my summer that whilst also appealing to my personal interests, would also benefit future career opportunities by giving me work experience that I could add to my CV.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

I personally emailed the Art Gallery asking if there was any work I could do over the summer, paid or unpaid and said I was very keen on helping out in multiple ways, for example working in the exhibition s themselves, being part of the front-of-house staff, or in their resource and research centre. Whilst there was not a particular ‘placement’ programme available or visible on their website, through direct email correspondence I managed to secure a place working there for the whole summer.

Main responsibilities

Assisting front of house staff:
- Answering questions from the general public about the gallery itself
- Giving directions/showing guests around
Working in the exhibitions themselves:
- Standing and making sure the guests had an enjoyable experience whilst walking around the galleries
- Informing people of the rules of the gallery upon entering more interactive exhibitions
- Interacting with younger visitors, helping them to draw and engage with the artwork
- Explaining the artwork to visitors
Screening of films at the gallery:
- Helping with ticket admissions
- Showing people to their seats
- Standing by the doors ready to help anyone that needed assistance during the screening of the film

Typical day

- Arrive at the art gallery around 9am
- Locate the exhibition I was working on for the day
- Make sure everything was in order i.e. checking supplies were there for the children’s activities like colouring pencils, paper, switching on interactive parts of the exhibition like a robotic cat!
- Discuss with the other helpers at the exhibition about the artwork if it was an exhibition I had not worked on before (beforehand I would have had some information given to me by the exhibitions team at the gallery)
- 10-11am visitors start to arrive
- Be on hand at the exhibition to answer any questions, give directions
- With some of the younger visitors it was encouraged to ask them questions and taken them around the exhibition to try and get them engaged with the artwork. For example, at one exhibition, there was the option for children to sit and draw- so it would be my job to provide them with the pencils and paper and help them to draw or prompt them with ideas
- 12-1pm lunch break
- 1-5pm move to a different exhibition and continue to assist
- 5pm go home!

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

- The ability to meet local Singaporeans of all ages who were also working at the gallery, making friends who I will stay in contact with
- Interacting with visitors; although for the most part being a gallery assistant sounds like quite a stationary job, I had the opportunity to learn about the artwork and engage in conversations with visitors from across the globe
- Working with children was something I thought I would not enjoy, but I ended up loving it. Working at the gallery therefore showed me it is important to not have preconceptions about something if you have never tried it before!

Challenging aspects

- building the confidence to talk to strangers and start up conversations
- getting used to such a large building and learning directions for myself before having to give instructions to visitors on ‘how to get somewhere’
- Facing the MRT (underground transport) which was very busy and packed in the mornings, so learning to leave that little bit earlier to miss rush hour, even though it meant getting up at 7am!

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

- Having good communication skills are vital; being put in positions where you have to talk and discuss with strangers, such as in my history seminars, definitely helped when interacting with gallery visitors
- Having done an independently researched 5000 word essay on Art for one of my history modules made me more aware and interested in the artwork at the gallery and helped me to understand and engage with the exhibitions, which in turn helped me explain the artwork to visitors, and interact with visitors better

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

It has certainly made me aware there are more options available to me; working in an art gallery is something I would not have considered before. It has also taught me as much as I enjoyed helping out at the exhibitions, this would not be something I would want to do as a full-time job. Nevertheless, it was beneficial in showing me how an art gallery runs and functions, what it takes to be part of such a team of employees, and in future perhaps working as a director of an art gallery or a more managerial position would be something I could, and would want to aim for.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Even if you do not think you would want such a position as a full time job, like I did by being an assistance at an art gallery, as long as the organisation/place you are thinking of working at interests you to a certain degree, go for it as you do not know what you will find out about your likes and dislikes of the working world until you try it!

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Form completed: 15 Sep 2017

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