TWO University of Ulster students took up the exciting opportunity to give up their free time to get involved in arguably the world’s most prestigious award for contemporary art!
The Turner Prize took up residence in Derry-Londonderry for the winter as part of the 2013 City of Culture celebrations and final year students Louis McTeggert and Stacey Thomson, who are studying at the University’s Magee campus in the City of Culture, soaked up the exciting atmosphere volunteering with the Turner Prize’s Learning Team since October this year.
Both students first heard of the role through the University of Ulster Students’ Union Volunteer Hub, and attended for interview in October 2013, resulting in them both being chosen to land a voluntary role with the prestigious organisation.
33-year-old Music student Louis said he was first inspired to get involved as he wants to do something he loves after he graduate.
“I first sent my expression of interest to volunteer because I was looking beyond my degree; I’ve volunteered for one offs in the past, but this was the first time I have volunteered regularly for something. My dream is to work in the arts sector, doing something I love, so this project with the Learning Team was the perfect opportunity to get absorbed in something.”
Local girl Stacey, who hails from the Kilfennan area of the city also says that improving her CV was a big factor in applying to the Turner Prize. The 21-year-old Creative Technologies student said:
“As a final year student, I recognise the need to improve my employability, and last year I remember getting a talk from the artist Damien Duffy at the Void Gallery who said if we had any chance, try to get ourselves involved with the Turner Prize as it was such a fantastic opportunity to come to the city so when the Learning Team role came up I was so excited by the opportunity.”
Both Louis and Stacey worked within different areas of the Learning Team, which delivered tours and workshops to school groups, young people, families and children, older people, third level students and to the wider public.
Louis helped to facilitate organised workshops with local artists for children and young people through local schools, while Stacey volunteered mainly with walk-ins who are keen to learn more about art and what the Turner Prize means whilst also assisting with the tours in the main exhibition.
Enniskillen native Louis says that the experience was been an eye opening one, as it has actually shocked himself in his willingness to get involved and interact with the children. He enthuses:
“I had never worked with kids before and I really surprised myself as it’s been a lot of fun! “I never thought I would enjoy working with children, to be honest I was nervous around them, but I now have skills in facilitating workshops with children, and it will help me in any future career as my confidence is now much higher!”
Stacey agrees building her confidence has been the main benefit of her volunteering experience.
“It has given me a lot more confidence in terms of networking skills, I’ve been meeting people who love art and it’s been a great chance to interact with other people. I have to do a final year design project, and’s really inspiring as it’s shown me that there are no limits to what art can be!”
“The David Shrigley exhibition (of a urinating life model sculpture) which invites visitors to draw their own interpretation of the art has been especially inspirational as all the drawings are unique- no two are the same!”
Both Stacey and Louis urge other students to get out there and volunteer. Stacey, who has also started volunteering in the Verbal Arts Centre, urged young people to get out and do something.
“The one piece of advice I would give to students is to start volunteering as soon as you can. I only started in September when I began final year, and I wish I had started earlier. Your time at University flies in, so go and get involved and give something back to your community.”
It’s even opened doors as Louis says that there has been talk of a potential for developing a music project for the children- as a result of his skills relating to his degree. He also cites the discussion the art provokes as being one of the highlights for him.
“One of the stand out memories for me is a group of first year Thornhill College students who had an extensive discussion about the exhibition which led them to conclude “We are the art” which was fantastic to see people so young speak so eloquently!”