Archive for the 'Arts' Category

Gallery Girl

I graduated in July 2009 having already done a substantial amount of work experience in between university engagements. I went straight into an internship as a gallery assistant at a contemporary art gallery in East London. I was paid expenses up to £10 a day. However I worked with them for two months (July & August) and did not receive my August expenses payment until December. I have to say I learnt a great deal in this time; in my final week I was actually the manager of the gallery (the manager of the gallery was at this time still an unpaid intern herself, but with the promise of paid work when her 6 month internship was complete).

In September I began a six-month internship at a major national museum, working on exhibitions with six other interns. I am the youngest (I’m 21) and least educated (I only have a BA). I am also the only one still living with my family. As I am only required to work four days per week, I began another internship (in the absence of a job and with the need to do something else other than this first internship), at a small local authorities gallery. This second internship has been incredibly rewarding; I have been able to co-curate an exhibition which has been a fantastic opportunity to complete, and this organisation has always been very grateful and supportive of the work I have done for them.

Continue reading ‘Gallery Girl’

Arts internships: chance of a lifetime or cut-price labour?

A great article in the Guardian this morning referencing the Arts Groups recent report on unpaid internships.

A young acquaintance of mine recently got her first paid job in theatre. She left university two and a half years ago and, since then, has worked part-time in a bar, while also undertaking a series of unpaid or expenses-only work experience placements and internships. Six, to be exact. Now approaching her mid-twenties, she has just got her first salaried employment in the arts. She counts herself lucky, even though it is only a part-time job. She knows people who have been working unpaid in theatres and companies even longer.

Unpaid work has become the accepted route into the creative professions. The Arts Council’s jobs website is awash with such unpaid opportunities, and there are theatres and companies who have become over-reliant on this free graduate labour and couldn’t run without it. Effectively it has become institutionalised.

Well done Lyn Gardner and well done the Arts Group.

Playing it cool

As an intern on a national newspaper I often have to pinch myself when that magical beep allows me through the security gates every morning, just being in the building is enough to make the experience worthwhile most of the time. Despite this though, it is often very tough. When the initial buzz of being party to an industry you’ve spent so long daydreaming about wears off, the reality of working long hours for no money can be extremely difficult - both mentally and physically.

One of the hardest parts of being an intern with no salary is getting up early and getting home late, spending long hours completing tasks which are essential to the running of your section all the while knowing that you’re not being paid for your efforts - a knowledge that leaves me feeling demoralised and demotivated at the end of a long week. Although my editor is supportive and often allows me opportunities to write and gather content for the section, when the office gets busy lines get easily blurred and it becomes very easy for employers to forget an intern is there to gain experience, not make cups of tea and deliver scripts around the building. What becomes so ultimately heart-breaking about the entire intern experience is the knowledge that when my time is up here, i’ll be just the latest in a long line of interns who’ve gone before me, despite how much I impress.


Internships are a balancing act

Which leads me to the-near impossible balancing act that interns know only too well -the fine line between appearing enthusiastic, dedicated and available and being dubbed the irritating, over-cheerful suck up, the latter of which ought to be avoided at all costs. Even after you master the art of making an impression while staying out of the way, there remains the simple fact that no matter how hard you try, chances of getting a job are pretty much non-existent, as every editor/reporter/cafe attendant will tell you.

Even prostitutes get paid…

I’ve been working as an “intern”, (or if you prefer, substitute the usual ‘unpaid, unappreciated, exploited office helot without whom the entire company would implode’) in a business organisation  for the past 3 months. Technically, I should be getting some specific experience and in fairness I have been, for a given value of ‘some’. The trouble is all the other stuff I’ve been asked to do. Like organise and book my boss’s holiday, book restaurants for his friends, find tickets for shows, go to the supermarket, squeeze fruit into juice for 5 hours for a cocktail party etc etc. My boss once made me go to the cash machine, and honestly I have never been so tempted to commit a crime in my life.

The most recent outrage He Who Must Not Be Named has perpetrated was to ask me to track down a certain kind of foodstuff as a gift for some friends: and this item, believe you me, is rare as hen’s teeth. Probably rarer. So I call up Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges, all the major supermarkets and some of the minor ones too. No go. Then I trawl through the internet. No luck, except a cash and carry who demand you buy 100 of them. For a moment I’m tempted to do so, just to see his face as 100 of the dratted things are unloaded into my his hallway. Most people by this stage would give up, but my boss is made of sterner stuff; that sort of attitude did not win us the Empire. No lily-livered surrender for them. He Who Must Not Be Named resembles an angry deity, propitiated only by the sacrificial sweat of their workforce. Boss decides that the thing to do is to ring up the factory where it’s made –in China.  He reasons that everybody speaks English these days so they must have someone who can help. With some scepticism I call them, and sure enough the person on the other end of the line has no idea what I’m saying and eventually I thank them for their time (in English, since my school didn’t stretch to Mandarin) and hang up. I’m told to send an email, which I duly do. This saga has started to haunt my waking and sleeping: I’m so irrationally stressed about it that I’m almost weeping in frustration. This is compounded by being sent texts about it at 9pm on a Sunday evening, for example.

I have a Master’s degree from Durham and this is what I’m reduced to. Like an idiot, or a masochist, I take it, partly because I’ve been brought up to be helpful and partly because I’m so desperate for a job now that I’d probably Morris dance naked on the House of Commons roof if it meant someone would offer me one. I’m terrified that any refusal will lead to a terrible reference, so my boss can dangle the prospect of a permanent position at the end of this stint (which, incidentally, has no official end date, so I could be working for free forever or until I find another job), ensuring that I never refuse to do anything, no matter how absurd or mundane. In the meantime I am effectively paying, since I have to pay for my own travel expenses, to have my dignity and self-respect peeled away, layer by layer, as though flayed alive. Even prostitutes get paid for their services; interns have to pay their punters. And meanwhile employers still want their pound of graduate flesh, and we still give it to them.

I want a cocktail

I want a cocktail

We need to recognise the value young talent

As an ex head of department of fashion and textiles at UK and USA universities I am all for gaining experience through practice in an industrial context. Having said that it should be during the period of ones degree, not after their studies as graduates. 

Students of art and design are now clients, they come into education with a purpose, to gain knowledge and skills and develop an intellectual agility in preparation for their future career. With luck they fine tune creativity to a point where an innovative approaches to problem solving is second nature. 

With most students struggling to maintain their studies in a climate of financial constraint, often living below the national poverty line, it would be criminal for educational establishments not to provide a placement program of some description during the three or four year study period. I have always been of the opinion that during this placement period some sort of remuneration is required whether a small salary or reimbursement of expenses, even students have to eat and pay their rent and not all are blessed with wealthy parents. 

The provision of a placement program during study not only provides the student with an attractive CV, it also develops a discourse between industry and education that in turn can provide many other benefits not necessarily apparent at the time. I just wish that government bodies where more supportive of our young thinkers as they are the future for societal, economic and creative innovation.

This comment originally appeared on the Creative Review website.

Interns stave off the effect of recession- going stateside

In ‘L.A’s Galleries reframe the recession’, the L.A Times tells us how the Art world is coping with recession. Galleries are closing down, moving place, diversifying and sacking staff. And here comes the relevant bit- they are hiring unpaid interns to replace the staff! Brilliant…I guess it’s cruel cruel capitalism that’s to blame but there is nothing internship about replacing someone’s paid position with an unpaid one. 


Nice pictures from the LA art scene

Nice pictures from the LA art scene

What school of ‘workie’ are you?

Last week I got a text from a friend who is also trying to make it in the journalism game:

“Oh my god. Have you seen the work experience guy who’s written Charlie Brooker’s column in G2 today? The last thing we need!” Work experience is a funny thing. When you’re 16, it’s a week-off school. But when you’re trying to get a job in an industry a zillion others want to work in (and just as many are being made redundant from), a work placement becomes a shop window - a chance for you to show-off how employable you are. And boy can it be frustrating when someone does better than you or gets an opportunity you don‘t. Lucky Tom Meltzer… bugger.

Continue reading ‘What school of ‘workie’ are you?’

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