Meet Jess White #BowesStaff

Hello, my name is Jess and I am passionate about engaging young people in cultural experiences.

Let me share with you why this is, beginning with my own journey:

From an early age, I loved art and making things and my mum and dad encouraged it, by providing me with lots of pens and paper and time for drawing. When I was at school, I thought that there were only two jobs someone interested in art could do, be a teacher or an artist. In sixth form I studied Art, Design and Technology and Economics, (because my parents didn’t want me doing only ‘arty’ things as they described it (incase the arts didn’t work out for me). In the summer holidays during my first year of sixth-form, I saw the opportunity to take part in an Art Summer School at the then Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD). I was 17 and it was maybe only my 2nd time living away from home for a week. It was brilliant, I got to learn about printing and photography and many other art forms. I also got to be around people from a completely different county to where I was from (Essex). This experience gave me a taste for what studying art at degree level could be like…

In 2007 I did an Art Foundation Course and enjoyed exploring lots of different disciplines from fashion to film. By the end of the year, I knew that I wanted to continue in the arts and went on to study Fine Art at the University for Creative Arts in Farnham. I would describe myself as a relational artist, I like to facilitate things that bring people together. For example, one time I transformed our seminar room into a tearoom and baked over 100 cakes in one evening. 

During my second year at university, I had the chance to do work experience. I told my tutors that I was interested in arts and learning and they told me to investigate gallery education. I phoned up some art galleries in London and organised volunteering at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Serpentine gallery and Tate. I loved this experience; getting to support artists delivering their workshops to different audiences and learning about their practice and how to engage different people. 

After graduating, I joined the Tate Collective in London, this was an amazing time for me because I got to go behind the scenes at the Tate. Not only this, but I loved meeting young people from different walks of life.  We collectively planned, programmed and delivered large scale events at Tate for other young people. Highlights from being in the Tate Collective include performing in the Tate Tanks and being selected to do an Artist residency in Brazil! 

Jess in her artist Residency in Brazil

At the same time as joining Tate Collective, I worked at Firstsite, a contemporary art gallery in Colchester. I began as a gallery assistant and volunteered within the learning team, supporting artists delivering workshops. Soon, I was delivering my own workshops. Around this time Circuit was launched, a four year national project led by Tate, which Firstsite got funding to be part of. I was employed by Firstsite as one of the Circuit Artists, a role I thoroughly enjoyed, supporting young people to deliver their own ideas in the gallery, just as I had done previously in Tate Collective. At the end of my contract with Firstsite, I went to work in India, as a teaching assistant, teaching contemporary British and Indian Art. This experience made me realise just how passionate I am about the arts and I organised a trip for students to a contemporary art gallery in India, where they met the Artist, Lalu Prosad Shaw, who we had been studying. 

India Workshop – The Arrival of Spring Inspired by Artist David Hockney

On my return to the UK, I was asked to project manage a 2 day conference in Bristol as part of Circuit. This was my first time managing a large scale national event for young people.

In January 2016, I became the Education Coordinator at Signals, a film and media charity, delivering their Education programme for children and young people. I got to be part of many cool projects, including the BFI Film Academy, which gives 16 – 19 years olds the opportunity to learn about film making from film makers. I loved supporting the teenagers on BFI Film Academy and knowing that for some of them, this would change their lives forever. 

Graudating from teacher training

In 2017, I decided that I wanted to explore learning in a formal setting so I trained to teach, qualifying in 2019. After gaining my teaching qualification, I was ready for a new challenge. I was also ready to leave Essex so I applied for my role at The Bowes Museum. When I came to visit, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the building – a French château, in an English town, completely unexpected! The romance behind the story of John and Joséphine Bowes and the magnificent collections. 

So now you know my story and some of the reasons why I am so passionate about engaging young people in cultural experiences. Arts and culture totally changed my life, broadening my horizons and making me realise that there are so many different pathways in this world. 

I cannot wait to begin planning and delivering activities for people aged from 13 to  25 at The Bowes Museum.

See Jess’s project #InspiredByBouts here:

If you have any questions or want to get in touch, then please do:

Jessica.White@thebowesmuseum.org.uk

Here are some links:

Tate Collective: https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-collective

Circuit: https://www.tate.org.uk/about-us/projects/circuit-programme

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