As the Footsteps into Art Gallery Education programme draws to a close, BA History of Art (International) student, Holly Benfield, reflects on her experience as a volunteer with the project.

Pierre Bourdieu’s The Love of Art talks about the barriers that prevent access to the arts for everybody. Despite this seminal piece being published over thirty years ago, I could not help but notice the similarities between Bourdieu’s work and my own experiences visiting galleries, and even beginning my degree here at the University of Leeds. Furthermore, with creative subjects in schools at risk, this seems to still be prevalent issue. Therefore work done by museums and galleries to inspire young people to express themselves is evermore important.

Working with the Footsteps into Art programme at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery has shown me that with all theoretical proof, and social importance aside, its cause is fun and rewarding in all the right ways. During my time with the programme, I learnt about the efficient and effective methods of delivering creative workshops. My favourite thing was to sit down and listen to the young people enjoying the activities. Their honest and unfiltered responses to the task at hand were often animated, filled with joy and some of the time quite profound. They were curious and enthusiastic, which suggests that their days spent at the Gallery were special and – whether that amounted anything from a lesson to a simple pleasure – it made an impact.

This year, I was kindly invited to take up the role of Online Resources Volunteer with Footsteps into Art. I created downloadable learning resources connected to the programme workshops, for teachers and group leaders. I also handled the database of the Footsteps into Art archive information for the website and created content for the Leeds University Library Galleries’ social media accounts. Being a part of the project behind the scenes allowed me to see and understand the far-reaching possibilities of education projects such as this – taking their form from delivery, to documentation and furthermore, inspiring others.

The Footsteps into Art project stretched over three years and has cultivated an ethos of growth. Like the young people the project primarily targets, I feel that I have been given the opportunity to flourish within a space which, prior to this, was alien to me. I am incredibly proud of the work I have done and being part of the programme over time has opened up to me the various roles, responsibilities and tasks that go into projects such as these and has prepared me to life beyond university. I would like to thank the Gallery’s Learning Coordinator, Claire Evans, for inviting me to join the team and for her endless support throughout.

Please contact Claire Evans if you are interested in accessing Holly’s teaching resources.

The Footsteps into Art Exhibition in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery opens on Saturday 23 June. The exhibition is free and open to all, Mondays – 1 – 5pm. Tuesday – Saturday, 10 – 5pm.