Why I Volunteer with the Community Arts Programme: Jamie Stevenson
I first became aware of the Guernsey Arts Commission and the work they do to support, develop and promote the arts in Guernsey when I took part in the ‘Arts Sunday’ public art event on the 17th of June where I worked with a team of volunteers in helping the Artist Eric Snell (director of Art and Islands Foundation) to realise ‘Line over Guernsey’ a three hundred metre tubular balloon filled with helium that was a geographical marker for the event and a stand-alone sculpture. Working with a group of people unfamiliar to me in order to fill a gigantic red balloon with compressed gas was undoubtedly one of the stranger experiences of my life and certainly the most exciting event that I had experienced since arriving in Guernsey in January.
At the time I was unaware of the involvement that I would have over the coming months with the GAC and all of the people that keep it running. However I was taken in by that first event and decided to contact the Arts Development Team regarding other opportunities for involvement as a GAC Volunteer. I was put in contact with Pete Appelqvist a GAC Volunteer who attends the ‘Community Arts Programme’ at Les Genats Estate.
The purpose of the programme is to deliver arts activities and materials to people who would not necessarily have access to them. As an Arts Degree Graduate I have a strong interest in the practice of visual art but also the teaching of the subject as I intend to undertake a PGCE teacher training course. The Community Arts project seemed like a good opportunity to gain some experience of working with children on arts projects. I decided to go along to Les Genats the following Tuesday to see exactly what the volunteers got up to and to meet the team.
To get to Community Arts events the volunteers travel in the ‘Arts Bus’ this is a purpose built van that contains everything needed to bring arts to the community including tables, benches, marquees, and a wide selection of art materials. Having the ‘Arts Bus’ as a resource is great because it means that the Volunteers are able to provide an engaging and varied array of materials so the children can be completely involved in the arts activities on offer. It is great to see such a well-resourced programme delivered to the community and seeing the work made with these resources is great.
I have attended Les Genats community arts evenings regularly since my first session and will continue to attend because volunteering for the GAC community arts programme is a fantastic opportunity on many levels. Firstly it is an opportunity to have a rewarding and insightful observation, a chance to work with a team of dedicated volunteers to help children realise their ideas through creative processes and whilst helping the community. For any-one who is interested in working within the arts or with children, volunteering is a great chance to gain some valuable experience that can help towards achieving your personal ambitions. Additionally it is a social opportunity, a chance to meet and network with people who have similar interests and different skill sets.
As a newcomer to the island I found myself quite isolated for the first few months of my stay here but through working as a GAC volunteer I have made and continue to make many friends and become integrated into the Guernsey arts community. Being a volunteer can be challenging and it’s not always easy to manage a large group of children but the team always work together and support each other. Finally by volunteering for the GAC I became aware of, applied for and was offered a four week internship with Arts Development Team. I am currently based in the GAC office where I am writing this article. There is no end to the experience and opportunity that you can gain from being a GAC volunteer!