Becoming an Advocate

There's everything to gain from this opportunity and I would encourage anyone creative to get involved.

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A few months ago,  I tentatively enquired as to how I might be able to get involved at Nottingham Contemporary. My expectations were low. As any young person looking for experience in the arts will know, opportunities are rare and competition is high. However, as I found out over a coffee with Alice, the Contemporary’s Youth Programmer, the gallery’s answer to work experience is totally unique; there are no pre-requisites for getting involved. The Advocacy Programme allowed me to start straight away. I became immediately integrated into a community of like-minded, artistic young people, and gained some invaluable experience.

In order to become an advocate, I had eight tasks to complete, all of which encouraged me to spend more time in the gallery and engaging with the arts.

Here’s a taste of how I completed some of the tasks:

  • I helped a resident artist run a community workshop building giant cardboard cities with the Refugee Forum.
  • I wrote a review of the Contemporary’s Rights of Nature exhibition and posted a video of my favourite piece on Instagram – a collection of amazing mechanical butterflies by Fernando Palma Rodríguez.
  • I took part in a series of guest artist workshops, creating costumes for a local parkour group who then performed at that months Collabor-8 social, an event based around our work and designed and hosted by the participants of the workshops.
  • I posted a video of Tracy Emin discussing and ‘making’ My Bed, at the Tate on the Facebook group.
  • I brought a friend along to another Collabor-8 event to chill out with a drink and do some craft.

Once I had completed a task I was able to attend the steering meetings. The Steering Group is more or less in command of Circuit, the national youth programme, at the Contemporary. Possibly the best part of these meetings is becoming part of such a creative community and, corny as it sounds, making friends. The atmosphere is relaxed and inclusive, and everyone wants to hear each other’s ideas.  Although no two meetings are the same, we are currently working towards producing an arts festival for young people this coming October. It has been really rewarding to be involved in such an ambitious and exciting project. As a member of the programme, I have a real sense of playing an important and valued role within the gallery. It might have something to do with our 10% discount at the Contemporary cafe bar and shop, our free reign of ‘The Space’ when we put on events, but most significantly, the amount of power we are given as a group to shape and influence the course of Nottingham Contemporary for young people.

Now, as a fully fledged Advocate, my role is to fly the flag for 15-25 year olds at Nottingham Contemporary. In return, I receive a working reference from the gallery, guaranteed to stand out on my CV or any arts-related application; tonnes of experience and transferrable skills; the opportunity to impact upon the running of Circuit within the gallery; and the sense of being a part of Nottingham’s exciting arts scene. There’s everything to gain from this opportunity and I would encourage anyone creative to get involved.

Emilia Eyre, 22 years old

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