Monday, 18 February 2013

Interning for the voluntary sector

Last Friday, Art in Healthcare (AiH) opened 'Art from Art', an exhibition of works created during artist-led workshops in care settings across Edinburgh. Such a project takes much time to set up, a challenging task for a small organisation run by part-time staff and beyond their dedicated volunteers’ call of duty. 

Opening of 'Art from Art' exhibition in the Whitespace gallery
image courtesy of AiH

How did AiH manage to pull this off? 
Outreach Manager Amelia Calvert explains that they have been very fortunate to benefit from the assistance of four interns over these past few months. Each one works closely with a permanent member of staff on specific tasks and areas selected to match their requirements and interests, curating, publicity, IT, administration, art therapy. The four interns follow three very different internship models. 

The two unpaid students from Edinburgh University Art History department come to the office once a week and their placement is an integral and assessed part of their postgraduate art degree. 
The Scottish-based intern was recruited by Community Jobs Scotland, a programme that places young jobseekers into full-time paid employment with non-profit organisations and the graduate from Spain is on a full-time paid European internship programme. 
Edinburgh University students  
Urara and Hayley curating artworks
image courtesy of AiH
How does it all work out? 
“The interns come to the office on a regular basis” says Amelia “they can be assigned specific tasks to be completed over a long period of time. In this way they are more like members of staff than volunteers. Also, they all have in common an inclination to build up skills and experience that might aid their studies and/or future job applications. For this reason, we aim to give them projects that they can ‘get their teeth stuck into’ and call their own. We fully rely on them as if members of staff so that they can appreciate what it’s like to be committed to work for an organisation." 

What about the time AiH has to invest in training these new recruits? 
“Granted it takes time and energy to train them and oversee their work” Amelia continues “but we generally find this is worthwhile for the input that they give back to us.” 

'Art from Art' exhibition display
image courtesy of AiH

A win-win situation 
The feedback from the interns is equally positive and reflects the adjustments each has had to make and what they gained in the process. “I am hoping to gain a general understanding of how a small arts-based organisation works – which I think I am!” says Hayley Thomson. “My responsibilities within the team have extended to a wider range of activities than I had expected, but I enjoy it a lot... I think I definitely have improved my communication skills... My time at AiH has broadened my understanding and interpretation of art and its impact on society.” says Urara Hatano. 

Amelia concludes “Furthermore, we feel we are helping to launch the career of keen young workers, which is the least we can do in a society where jobs and ‘having something to do’ is not always easy to come by...”

Martine Foltier Pugh is a freelance writer and visual artist based in Edinburgh

With thanks to Amelia Calvert, AiH Outreach Manager, Urara Hatano and Hayley Thompson for their contribution.

European internships
Community Jobs Scotland
History of Art, Edinburgh University

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