Young Curators Blog: Sophie & Blake

Blake

My name is Blake and I joined the Young Curator program at The Bowes Museum because I wanted to gain a greater knowledge of how workplaces/businesses function behind the scenes; how they are operated to bring in visitors and profits. Working with the Museum has been a great experience as I have not only planned and executed successful events but had a look around and explored the Museum. I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and take a look at how it is run and functions. Whilst working with the Museum I have been able to gain a greater appreciation of artworks and the stages every single piece goes through from workshops and studios, to being hung on the wall or displayed in a glass box. I have also been able to interact with workers of the Museum and have seen all the hard work they do to keep it up and running and be capable of holding all its magnificent pieces of art. What I enjoyed most about my time as a Young Curator would have been meeting and talking to everybody else – the people. I loved joining the meetings every week and interacting with Jess White and the rest of the Curators.  It’s been a wonder listening to and editing everybody’s ideas to create successful events that everyone enjoyed, whether that was designing them, planning them or attending them.

Sophie

My name is Sophie Somers and I am one of six Young Curators at The Bowes Museum. I’m a 23 year old lens-based artist, currently studying Photography, Video and Digital Imaging at Sunderland University. My personal creative practice explores the constraints of man’s relationship with nature, inhabited spaces and the traces we leave behind. 

I applied to be a Young Curator to gain a greater understanding of the role a curator plays within a museum. The opportunities extended to the Young Curators are incredibly valuable to me at this time in my career, as I grow closer to graduating from University. I am interested in a career within a gallery or museum setting, specifically in developing creative and inclusive experiences for people with disabilities. Due to the UK’s first lockdown, I missed out on the opportunity to exhibit my final year Photography project, specifically made for and about visually impaired people. Having the opportunity to curate an exhibition for young people was therefore incredibly exciting to me.

Collaborating with The Bowes Museum has been incredibly rewarding; as a group, the Young Curators created a physical and virtual exhibition celebrating the return of the painting St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, made in the workshop of Dieric Bouts the Elder (c. 1415 – 1475). We then, in pairs, created accessible and innovative ways of learning about the Bouts painting for young people. 

Blake and I created a multi-sensory pack filled with objects inspired by the painting, with an accompanying audio description, to help young people and more specifically visually impaired young people explore and learn about the painting from their own homes. To make these packs we researched objects within the painting and sourced them through online shops within a specific budget. We commissioned a local artist Melanie Kyles to create the embroidery on velvet to represent the cloth of Honour. We then wrote, recorded and edited an audio description video to accompany the packs, all whilst working collaboratively with one another, sharing out the workload and meeting weekly to discuss developments. 

I am passionate about creating accessible experiences within the creative industry for people with disabilities. I believe everybody has the right to access art. The Bowes Museum has supported my passion through making the sensory packs. After a lot of research, we decided the packs would include Verona red marble, canvas, wood, mussel shells, small tubes of oil paint and velvet with gold embroidery. The objects are a great way to explore and learn about the painting, referencing items within the artist’s workshop. Being able to touch and smell the objects whilst listening to the audio description allows people to engage multiple senses in their enjoyment of the work, all from the comfort of their home. 

My favourite part has been working with other young people to create engaging experiences for young people. Overall, the experience has allowed me to learn about the range of roles within a museum and develop my career aspirations. 

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