Emily Gibbons, a volunteer with the Footsteps into Art programme, writes about her experiences working with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.


When I first signed up to volunteer with the Footsteps into Art programme I was both nervous and excited. The role was completely alien to all of my previous work experience, and it was quite a daunting prospect to be working with children and documenting the day through photography which I hadn’t done in a professional setting before. My first day volunteering with the Footsteps into Art programme was during Brudenell’s visit to the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery on the 9th December, and overall I think the day was valuable to both the students and to us as volunteers.

The primary school students were split into two groups and they rotated between the craft workshop and the workshop in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery. One of the main reasons I applied for the voluntary role was in order to gain experience of working within a gallery, and the 9am start definitely helped with that mindset! We had just finished preparing the workspace and materials for the textile workshop when the students arrived and they were soon making use of all the felt and double-sided tape. During the first workshop I spent much of my time talking to the children about their pieces and these conversations were much more rewarding than I was expecting, particularly one student who told me about her art project at home. What really struck me was the high level of engagement with the textiles from all of the students, and it made the workshop feel very rewarding.

My favourite thing about the second workshop was seeing the students looking at the pieces on display in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, and being introduced to a local history of art which I think is so important to be exposed to. The idea of describing colours was also really interesting because personally I think there’s a strong relationship between words and images which is underexplored, and many of the students became really creative with their descriptions. It was refreshing to see their creativity unhindered by any embarrassment or self-policing many artists face. I benefited greatly from this workshop as well, as I had my first opportunity to photograph the children and their work and the limitations imposed on this were interesting to work within.

Overall, the feedback I received when talking to the primary school students was positive, with many of them saying they enjoyed the workshop and would like to return, and also asking about the university and my own art course. I think the volunteering role is incredibly beneficial to gain experience of working with children and within a gallery and I’m looking forward to the next visit!