This week is #VolunteersWeek, and we want to take this opportunity to thank all our incredible volunteers, past and present. ‘Meet the Volunteers’ gives you a glimpse into our volunteering programme and into what spending a few hours a week in our studios brings to our volunteer’s practice. Alison Brown is one of our current ReConnect volunteers, and she answers our question in today’s feature.
Are you a graduate or undergraduate artist? Can you tell us what course you are on, or a little about your art practice?
I graduated from Glasgow School of Art quite a while ago – but in the meantime had worked in radio and television, and had a family. For years I knew that I really wanted to get back to art and design, but struggled to get started again. When I finally left broadcasting, I experimented with image sequences and surface pattern in drawings, prints and collages. Also I like to draw people as often as I can – I’m fascinated by faces and spend a lot of time in cafes scribbling unsuspecting coffee drinkers.
In what workshop did you volunteer?
The ReConnect Workshop on Friday morning.
Why did you apply to volunteer at Project Ability?
I had admired work done by Project Ability artists for years, and always thought it would be great to get involved. Beyond wanting to do something positive for other artists, I was also keen to learn about working with people in this kind of setting. I wanted to build a knowledge of how to encourage and support people to explore their artistic potential, alongside the fact that I really like working with people – I find the process of meeting and making connections with individuals really fascinating.
Did your experience live up to your expectations?
I really has! And surpassed them. I look forward to each session, to find out how things are going with everyone in the studio. The Friday artists have been a real joy to work with. Everyone is so dedicated to their work, creative and fascinating to talk to. There’s an incredible range of work being created, and I’m so impressed by the way in which people are keen to push forward and gain new skills and insights.
What I didn’t anticipate was the level of interest and support I would get back from everyone, which has been very inspiring. To be honest, I was a little nervous at first, but everyone in the studio was so welcoming that I soon felt like part of the family. It’s been years since I’ve spent time in a shared creative space and find it very motivating. I’ve been inspired to try things that I’ve seen in studio, and also try long-neglected mediums that I thought I was no good with. Being at Project Ability has reminded me too that it’s good to experiment and ‘play’ with my work, and be confident in what I am creating.
What have you learned from your experience with us?
It’s been great to work with adult artists, as previously many of the workshops I had run or assisted with previously were for children. Beforehand I thought that this would add extra layers of complexity to the experience; that people would be looking for more detail and specific help or guidance. What I found is that it’s not as straightforward as that – the support I offer actually really depends on the person I’m speaking to and what’s happening with them that day. My contribution could be as simple as giving a bit of encouragement and finding materials, or something more demanding. I’ve discovered that it helps to keep an open mind and be flexible.
I’ve learned a lot about focus. The ability to use work as a focus beyond everything else that’s going on in life can be central to an artist’s practice, and I’ve begun to discover how to use focus, and sometimes the skill of re-focussing, as a way of getting around blockages or bad days.
I’m fascinated by the way that the work opens up lines of communication between individuals, and gives a central point of contact. In my non-voluntary working life, I’ve always had to do the talking…and be the person who is persuading and generally making things happen. At Project Ability, I’ve been working on being calmer, letting people come to their own conclusions in their time. I’ve been working on listening rather than filling the space with my thoughts or ideas… I’m finding out how to step back and allow things to happen.
And finally, persistence is a great thing! There’s nearly always a little more paint you can ease from a tube…
Do you have a favourite Project Ability artist or art work that has stood out for you?
It’s really difficult to pick out one person to be honest, I really like so many of the people I’ve met and the pieces they’ve produced….I couldn’t just pick out one…
Would you recommend others to volunteer with us?
Definitely…in fact I already have.
Any other comments?
Thank you for such a fantastic experience. I have gained so much, I just hope I’ve made a useful contribution in return. I’m not usually lost for words, but I’ve found it really difficult to put into words what this experience has meant to me. Thank you to all in the Friday ReConnect studio and Celine.
Thank you Alison!