Wednesday, 7 December 2016

From Pizza to Art.. Getting a job in the Contemporary Art World

It's been a crazy and mountainous year for my career. Last December I sat in our basement room in a hostel working part time as a waitress, volunteering at The William Morris Gallery and wondering how I was going to get this art career off the ground. Every job I applied for expecting 1-2 years experience as an intern. Every internship I applied for expected candidates to have already worked as an intern, gained a degree and essentially work for free full time. In London. One of the most expensive cities in the world. 

It's this crazy catch 22 situation and so many candidates I was up against had degrees in art history, spoke a second language and sometimes, masters degrees. Never mind the actual work experience they also doubtlessly had. Here I was with a degree in advertising, a love of art and a knowledge that art made me feel more alive than any other pathway could. 

I gained an internship at an East London gallery for 3 months, working three days a week for free at the gallery, another three as a waitress with the last day reserved for church and sleep. I learnt so much. How to hang, pack and handle artwork. Worked at regular exhibition openings, researched artists to exhibit and gained a primary focus of the logistical side of a small gallery business. It was hugely beneficial and I was offered a full time role with the hope of an extension. For the next two months I worked five days a week at the gallery, one evening shift and one day shift as a waitress. Again with Sunday as my only day off. 

It was hard work, but again I learned even more. I worked with a team from Hong Kong and went on to receive a one day a week position as essentially a manager on duty, where I would oversee interns and manage the company's main email account and exhibition schedule. While this lasted for a further two months, accumulating in seven months experience. I was back to waitressing the majority of the time due to the lack of further opportunities at the company. 

I was working like crazy and nothing permanent was coming of the situation. I was researching vacancies in the arts, but knew the kind of people I would be up against. Over this duration I must have applied for around 200 jobs. I would be invited to interviews, told how much they loved me but my experience was lacking which was the incredibly frustrating. My experience was clearly outlined before hand and surely an interview is mainly to see if they like you... 

I was getting more and more downhearted.. until I did my most extensive job interview. I submitted a CV along with a PDF of social media examples (hello blog), face-to-face interview, written task, presentation, telephone interview. And then the day after my 23rd birthday I found out the job was mine! 

I had been considered a wildcard but here I was being offered a full time position in the arts! I now work for charity initiative that raises money through original, postcard sized artworks. 

In my six months at the company, I have carried out art admin, handled and catalogued valuable artwork. Written online content, attended a social media course by the Frieze Academy specialising in art and fashion. Held originals by Grayson Perry and Damien Hurst, fell in love with the work of emerging artists and visited the studio of Harland Miller. 

As a company we work on so many projects throughout the year, and I have had the opportunity to work at the urban Moniker Art Fair, oversee the hanging arrangements and play a large role in an exhibition held at an incredible gallery in Mayfair, managed volunteers, learned so much about artists and the contemporary art scene here in London. And most recently helped run a secret auction that raised £75K for charity and appeared in The Guardian and The Times newspapers.

It's been an unexpected and educational year. 


2 comments so far

    Sorry for all the caps but you go for this, I think I could quite happily punch the air for you.
    Congratulations, you deserve this so much.
    Erin | art, inspiration, words

    1. Haha thank you so much! Reading your lovely comment has made me smile ear to ear!! It's definitely been a small battle getting here. How are you doing? I love following your art on instagram x


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