Hannah Jones is exhibitions officer at Plymouth College of Art, curating the Viewpoint Gallery. But what makes a good exhibition? We asked her
I look for several things in the exhibitions I programme. It’s important that I find ways to support the range of curriculum that is taught at the college, so when programming I reflect on what areas we have already focused on in previous programmes and then look at the areas that may need more attention.
I seek to find exhibitions/artists that will motivate, inspire and challenge our students, often searching for artists who they wouldn’t necessarily already know about so to open them up to new work.
It’s also essential that the artwork selected fits within a contemporary gallery context. The gallery is a public gallery, so I also think about the context of Plymouth as a city as a whole, trying not to repeat what is being programmed elsewhere and instead offering a programme that complements what else is going on in the city.
For me it’s about the balance being right, meaning that everything comes together in terms of a content, presentation, interpretation and how our audience responds, along side the important factor of having a positive and productive working relationship with the artist/s.
One of the downsides of my role is that you are always looking to the next project rather than reflecting on the success of your achievements.
This is particularly pertinent for me as the role of exhibitions officer didn’t exist before I took it on, so every project I have worked on has been about growing, learning and improving. I feel that my greatest success is getting the programme and the gallery to the stage it is now at, a professionally-run space showing great work.
Although we are a small space we are a serious contender in terms of offering high-quality exhibitions for a wide range of people to enjoy. There aren’t many galleries in the city so it’s vital that we offer an exciting programme of exhibitions that add to and enhance the mix of visual arts activity in the city. I work in collaboration with partners in the city and feel personally invested in helping to develop and grow the visual arts provision in the city.
As an artist, the most enjoyable part of the job is getting to work with other artists, especially on the development of new work.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes – meetings, working out logistics, trying to find solutions to tricky problems – sometimes it can be quite stressful (I’ve even dreamt about projects in the past), but after the week spent working with the artists and a great team of volunteers and meticulously putting the show together, the excitement and achievement of seeing it all come together is really satisfying.
One of the greatest challenges of being an artists is that more times then not you don’t get paid for the work you do, so I also get a great sense of satisfaction in being in a position where I can pay artists well and promptly.
How you frame work up is important – how you can help the audience navigate an exhibition and engage in the artworks is something that we think about differently for each show.
It’s about understanding the context of the environment you are working in.
We have a real mix of students studying at the college so it’s important to recognise and to be sensitive to this. I show work that may be challenging to my audiences in a range of ways and for different reasons, so it’s hard to be clear cut about what is challenging or ‘risky’ – classically this may be to do with work that includes nudity, violence, profound language and/or deals with difficult subject matter.
I would not be adverse to showing work that involved any of these aspects as long as it was good work and relevant.
This is an article from our Plymouth ArtsCulture magazine, which you can read for free online, or buy your own copy to cherish and hold.