Installation photo of Becoming from the Arts Council Collection at artsdepot, 2011

Apthorp Gallery at Artsdepot, London

Alice Lobb , 15.01.2013
Becoming, an exhibition of 24 objects from the Arts Council Collection, was conceived, researched, selected and planned by seven people aged 13-19 years. In 2011 it was presented in the Apthorp Gallery at Artsdepot, a multi-art form centre in North Finchley, London, and included works by artists such as by Jordan Baseman, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and Gillian Wearing.

This project was part of Artsdepot’s already extensive work with young people that provided opportunities for people from widely varied backgrounds to participate in the arts.

Focused on the visual arts, the young curator’s group was an opportunity for them to work alongside professional artists, curators and education specialists and produce artsdepot’s first fine art exhibition curated by young people. The group also acted as ambassadors for the gallery and Artsdepot in general.

The project was open to all young people across the London borough of Barnet, and new and existing networks were used to advertise the opportunity. The result was a diverse group that included refugees and asylum seekers, people with English as a second language, those living in areas of high deprivation and students from local colleges.

The project took place over nine months. The young people met twice a month with Artdepot’s associate curator and occasional visiting artists and arts professionals to plan, research and develop the exhibition.

They chose to produce an exhibition that explored youth culture in the UK, focusing on the particular challenges of being young and growing up.

As part of the project the group met with Arts Council Collection curators to talk about their ideas and organised a trip to the collection store to view objects and finalise their selection. They also visited the Hayward Gallery and Tate Modern to think about exhibition design, interpretation and visitor experience.

Participation in the project enabled the young people to gain their Arts Award, a national qualification aimed at increasing young people’s participation in the arts. Participants become increasingly confident in their ability to talk about contemporary art and work together as a team, and they hosted a professional event to celebrate the project.

Perseverance and lots of energy is required for a project such as this in order to keep young people motivated and engaged in the project over a relatively long period of time.

Starting the project in February wasn’t ideal as it meant it spanned two academic years. But on the plus side the group could contribute more after the exam period. Planning the schedule with them in advance helped make this work.

I would advise others to carry out group exercises and visits. Individual research is important to engage groups with varied skills and confidence.

And get them involved in everything, so that they are part of the whole project and can contribute specific ideas and knowledge that you may not have.

Alice Lobb was the associate curator at Artsdepot, She worked with Artsdepot’s outreach officer, Cate Gordon, to conceive this project. Lobb now works in the exhibitions department at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Gordon is participation programmer at Harrow Arts Centre