Compton Verney’s Youth Advisory Panel: The journey so far….
We were in the midst of a third lockdown when I applied to Compton Verney’s Youth Advisory Panel. By then, it’d been 6 months since I had stepped into a museum or gallery space, and I was desperate for any opportunity to relive the visitor experience. I had scoured every online tour you could take, listened to an unreasonable amount of podcasts, and had stared longingly at the Instagram accounts of galleries across the world.
But, in all that longing for a return to arts and culture, big questions still loomed. With time away from galleries and museum spaces, many of us had the opportunity to re-examine art’s place within our lives, and the way in which institutions and galleries made us feel about art.
With this wider societal debate in mind, I applied to be a youth advisor for Compton Verney and was luckily accepted into the role. In many ways, joining the role felt like an empowering moment, both as a young person and as a visitor.
In the art world, there is always a sense of mystery when it comes to putting on exhibitions and shows, which the average visitor never quite gets to see.
And yet, visitors are some of the most important people in the museum and gallery sector. Our presence alone can make or break the success of an exhibition. If something is good or bad, we tell friends and loved ones, we go online and talk about it, we sometimes revisit, or choose never to visit again. With this in mind, one of our earliest discussions within the panel was about how to re-prioritise the visitor when it comes to putting on new shows and exhibitions.
Over a series of meetings, the youth panel began to expand upon these ideas of accessibility, as well as discussing and investigating what it means to have a good visitor experience to a museum or art gallery. Over the course of these conversations, we were keen to explore the idea of a visit to a museum or gallery space as an experience, particularly regarding the emotions it elicits and the overall feeling an exhibition creates, be that good or bad.
Considering this, we began to think about how best to encapsulate our thoughts, aims and ambitions for the future of Compton Verney. Over several long and energetic zoom sessions, we began to experiment with ideas of potential events, exhibitions and performances which could provide accessible and unique art experiences for future CV visitors.
With our long list of ideas, ranging from a gallery takeover to a wintertime performance on the grounds, the panel were able to break free from the limiting little boxes of zoom calls to finally meet in person! Meeting together at Compton Verney at the end of July, we started with a tour of the latest exhibitions, with many of us visiting for the very first time.
At our make-shift meeting hub in one of CV’s event spaces, we weighed up the logistics of different ideas, bringing in Compton Verney’s very own curatorial and learning departments, to give us some important insights into what it takes to bring an exhibition or event to life.
This afternoon of discussing and working through potential ideas was a truly transformative process, both for myself and the wider panel. Throughout our lengthy discussions, we relished the opportunity to bounce ideas off of experts in the museum and gallery sector. As many of us on the panel aspire to work in the museum and gallery sector, this was a great opportunity for us to gain a small, but realistic insight into the type of challenges which can arise from curating and producing exhibitions, particularly after a pandemic.
After settling on Gallery A as our takeover space, we made the decision to commission an artist or art collective to create a piece in response to both the space and our given theme.
When it came to choosing our theme, the panel wanted to capture the zeitgeist of the current time, considering the issues which affect young people the most. For us, that was the climate crisis and the ways in which technology can both help and hinder the fight to end climate change.
For the rest of the day, we fleshed out a draft proposal and began to consider deadlines as well as tasks related to advertising the call-out for artists. With dates set and a plan in place, it was time to head home after an incredibly productive day on site.
Currently, our call-out is circulating across various different advertising channels and artist community groups in order to gain a wide-reaching selection of artists and applicants. By the end of August, we will be able to collate all the applicants and choose our candidate for taking over Gallery A, with our selection process taking place in early September.
So, as we await applicants in response to our commission, we’ll be sure to update the CV blog as our project continues to take space across the next few months!
By Hope Talbot, Youth Advisor