Posted: 25th June 2021
Reaching an Audience: Communication & Content in a Covid-19 Internship
My name is August, and over the last six months, I’ve been lucky enough to intern with the Ferens as part of my University course- I’m in my second year studying Curating and Art History at the University of York, so it’s been a great opportunity to both put some of the ideas I’ve gathered from my study into practice, as well as learn more about the day-to-day work in a gallery space. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect originally, as it was my first time working in arts and culture, but the project so far has been incredibly interesting and I’ve loved just about every minute of working here.
The Work I’ve Been Doing
Our main role has been to research, advise on and to develop content for the gallery to release in the lead-up to and throughout the exhibition. Our first role was to research some of the less-documented artworks from the collection which were to be included, which I found fascinating. One of my favourite aspects of Art History has always been researching the lives and journeys of smaller artists and pieces, and so I thoroughly enjoyed the process and finding out more about artists and practices which I’ve not had the opportunity to research before, such as William Townley Benson and late 1800s American itinerant artists, a very niche topic I doubt I’d have encountered otherwise.
The main learning experience I encountered came after this process, however. As someone who’s far more used to writing in an academic context than a social one, receiving feedback that some of my writing could be more accessible than it was, was something I’d never considered. Taking the time to learn to de-jargon my writing style turned out to be a very satisfying process, and has definitely helped me a lot in other areas of my course, especially as we come to produce and present our own exhibition in the summer. The contrast between my earliest pieces, and those which I’ve produced more recently, is massive, and I’m very glad to have had the motivation to develop it as a skill.
The Impact of the Pandemic
Whilst the research and writing process was largely unaffected by the pandemic conditions, as the majority of resources are now available online, or can be made to be so if asked, the main impact was our inability to visit the gallery in person, and to collect information directly from our audience. As such, we tried to develop online market research tools in the form of surveys, which was a mixed experience but after we eventually managed to distribute it, we found that our research largely supported our initial instinct reactions about content. As someone who’s never used the platform, working on developing Instagram content has also been an insightful experience, especially when my peers are much more familiar with the platform- I’m very grateful for their expertise!
Whilst I’m sad that I’ve not been able to assist in-person at the gallery, I’m confident that the remote work we’ve done will continue to help me in the future, especially in terms of being better equipped to approach different audiences and perspectives in writing and content. I’m certainly excited to be able to visit the exhibition once the Ferens is open and running again, as well as to see others’ reactions to the work we’ve developed. Overall, whilst it might not have been the internship I expected, I’ve had a wonderful time at the Ferens, and I’m looking forward to seeing what future volunteers and interns contribute going forward.