Behind The Scenes, 1 August 2018: Putting our Public Art Audit Online
by Jennifer Crowther, Research Volunteer
Life post graduation can be very strange. You spend years of your life studying hard, working on those ‘transferable skills’, volunteering and working all the tedious part time jobs you can imagine. All of this with the aim of landing your dream job, or something within the vicinity of that idea. The study, work cycle is all very consuming, busy, noisy, then suddenly…silence.
Suddenly you have the magic certificate but instead of an induction day there is just a bunch people asking what you’ll actually do with that art degree, a whole lot of hanging out on sites such as indeed.com and trying to write ‘stand out’ cover letters.
To say the change of pace is jarring is an understatement. I’m still treating my whiplash.
My dream has always been to work in the arts sector. I love making, writing, curating and speaking about art. So what was I to do with all this drive to work but no job offers? I started offering my time for free. Try not to be disheartened if you’re currently in a similar situation. Volunteering, although not a financially viable long term option, will open your eyes to new possibilities, introduce you to new connections and keep you motivated post graduation.
My time at Plymouth City Council working with the Museums Galleries Archives team over the last few months has been just what I needed. I’ve been working closely with the Public Art Officer, the Digital Engagement Officer and the rest of the lovely people in the office have made me feel incredibly welcome.
My priority has been to help develop the online presence for public art, using and adding to an audit that’s been under development and review for some time. I’ve also been able to undertake and add the results of my own research about more than 100 permanent and temporary pieces across the city.
This information has been used to create a database that we’ve translated into website content. Now available online from this site, it’s a way of accessing details about a great deal of Plymouth’s public art. The records that are now live provide context about each of the pieces including why they were commissioned, the artist who created them, their motivation and any historical background.
The project has been a huge learning curve for me. Even after doing a Masters Degree at 30, I have picked up skills I hadn’t expected to, all of which will serve me well with future job applications. I am now also, by chance, a fountain of knowledge about Plymouth’s public art, some of which I didn’t even know existed! The work has kept me interested and has always been based on outcomes, agreed with members of the team who have given me dates to aim for and a focus for my research.
Working in an environment I hadn’t previously considered has also opened my eyes to the different approaches I could take with a career in arts and heritage. I don’t know what will come next but I do know my time at Plymouth City Council will stand me in good stead. It has been both interesting and worthwhile.
So if you’ve ever wondered about the giant metal loop in Victoria Park (pictured above), the golden scallop on the wall on the Barbican, or the mother and child on the University campus (pictured below), click here to discover more about these and many other pieces of public art!
Keep an eye out for some of my top public art picks on The Box and Plymouth Museum’s social media channels throughout the rest of the summer too, or why not go along to the Bite Size event in Ham Woods on 29 August where you can find out more about a public art commission by well-known artist Peter Randall-Page?