Gaining experience at Modern Art Oxford – Sarah Slough reflects on a valuable Kickstart placement

Sarah Slough joined our Creative Learning team earlier this year for a placement as part of the national Kickstart Scheme.

While with us, Sarah conducted research into several Modern Art Oxford projects, looking in particular at diversity and youth engagement. One case study was City as Studio, our project with young people aged 16-19. In this blog post, Sarah shares reflections on the experience and the Kickstart programme.

Words by Sarah Slough

Having just finished my M.A in English Literature in the midst of the pandemic, I was now living on my own for the first time in a new city, not really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was applying for jobs all over and getting nowhere – a situation many people sadly find themselves in. Accessibility was another thing I had to take into account, as I knew my health conditions would prevent me from working certain jobs. It’s safe to say that I was feeling pretty discouraged after several months of this, which is when my job coach began going through various Kickstart schemes with me. After chatting through which positions suited my background and skills, we came across one for a Research and Development Assistant with Artswork, which immediately caught my eye.

The position with Artswork began with a few weeks of training, mostly related to workplace skills to help us with this job placement and future careers. Then the group moved on to their various placements, my first being at Anvil Arts with two fellow Kickstarters. Together, we took on research regarding youth advisory boards and panels, reporting our findings back to our lovely client and completing other writing tasks between us. My placements following this – Museum of Oxford, Portsmouth Guildhall, Ports Fest, and of course Modern Art Oxford – were similar in subject matter. I had the chance to research youth engagement and diversity in the arts and heritage sector, writing recommendations based on this, as well as receiving lots of support from the organisations as I completed the work.

With Modern Art Oxford, I took a look at two projects run by the gallery and wrote documents of feedback based on my research. One of the projects I looked at was City as Studio, a great opportunity for young people to get involved with filmmaking. After viewing all the project material, I researched accessibility, the demographics of the city and additional ways the project could be promoted, then presented this to Sara and Holly as a set of recommendations. This was all done remotely – however, I got to visit the gallery at the end of my placement. It was a great chance to learn more about the organisation and see the gallery in person. My time with Modern Art Oxford has helped me to gain more experience and insight into creative careers, and I’m very grateful for the continuous support I received from Sara and Holly.

Overall, my Kickstart role has enabled me to learn a great deal about potential careers in the arts and heritage sector, many of which I had no idea existed before. I didn’t even realise there were so many jobs that could be done remotely! I gained valuable experience and networking opportunities, as well as a sense of security while I continued to think about the future. My experience of starting out with a creative career has been both rewarding and challenging, and I still don’t have all the answers, but I definitely have a better sense of direction and what makes me tick. Thanks to this experience, I now have some exciting new research opportunities that have come my way, and I plan to keep an open mind going forward as I continue to navigate through the trial and error that is the future.

Click here to find out more about Artswork opportunities and placements.

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