One of the best ways to get work experience as an Arts student has to be volunteering. However unintentionally, the world of museums, libraries and galleries are incredibly difficult to access if you want to be paid for your work, but almost any establishment will accept you if you’re willing to work for free. Most of my plans for after leaving university centre around working in a cultural institution of some kind, so I’ve spent many hours looking for suitable CV-fillers. After a year and a half of trying to find the best opportunities around Nottingham, here’s what I’ve found!

”New members are always welcome, and it’s a really simple application process”

Nottingham Museums (including Nottingham Castle, Wollaton Hall and Newstead Abbey, among others) offer the Illuminate project, which is a group of 15-24 year olds who work to make the museums more accessible and interesting to the wider community, as well as providing valuable ‘behind the scenes’ opportunities for young people. New members are always welcome, and it’s a really simple application process.

”The Advocate project runs alongside that, and requires volunteers to complete 8 tasks in order to become an Advocate for the gallery”

Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham’s resident modern art gallery, has two separate ways that young people can get involved and volunteer. The Collabor-8 Collective is a steering group who run and shape Nottingham Contemporary’s Youth Programme, and help to plan and run workshops. The Advocate project runs alongside that, and requires volunteers to complete 8 tasks in order to become an Advocate for the gallery. Completion of the Advocate scheme leads to a working reference from the gallery, as well a great CV boost!

Backlit gallery, close to the city centre, also offers a volunteering scheme that students can partake in. They offer positions as exhibition/gallery assistants, technical assistants, and marketing and events assistants, among others. Again, just a simple application form and a meeting to discuss your goals is all it takes!

New Art Exchange, based up near Forest Fields (where the Bonfire Night celebrations are held), is a really cool gallery with some wicked exhibitions! They also have volunteering opportunities, mainly around event/general support, outreach, and marketing, though there are roles for everyone within that. It’s just a matter of sending an inquisitive email and they’ll get back in touch.

”Both the museum and galleries at Nottingham Lakeside Arts accept volunteers, and are happy to try and cater your experience to what you’re most interested in”

UoN’s own resident arts centre is not without its opportunities! Both the museum and galleries at Nottingham Lakeside Arts accept volunteers, and are happy to try and cater your experience to what you’re most interested in. There are also Nottingham Advantage Award modules available that involve volunteering at Lakeside, if you’re aiming to achieve the award before you leave. Finding out more is simply a case of emailing the relevant team, and they will get back to you.

Even if finding internships can be incredibly challenging for arts students, we can’t complain about the lack of volunteering roles! There will be a role for you somewhere in the city, and you would do well to take advantage of every opportunity you have; you won’t be a student forever (sadly), and it makes sense to put your free time to good use while you have it!

Ellen Smithies

Image Credit: Ron Mader via Flickr

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