Q&A with Eleanor Boydell
Arts Management student Eleanor Boydell shares how her internship gave her hands on experience in the differences between the theory and reality of curating an exhibition.
What attracted you to an Master of Arts (Arts Management) internship?
The internship was a great opportunity for hands on experience. In class we speak about art in a conceptual way but to actually interact with artwork on a physical and personal level is really important. Quiddity was also a great introduction to the gallery context, a part of the arts sector in which I haven’t previously worked.
I was attracted to the Arts Management program at RMIT because it seemed more oriented to practice than some of the other degrees being offered. The way it’s structured gives you a lot of flexibility for working, volunteering, and interning, by virtue of the fact that it isn’t highly intense in terms of contact hours. The practical learning acquired through internships is just as essential to professional development as the academic learnings that are the formal part of our curriculum.
I’ve been able to form some great relationships with other people from the course and build professional contacts, which has already led to new opportunities.
What were the challenges in putting together an exhibition like Quiddity?
Having not curated an exhibition or project of this scale previously, I didn’t have a full understanding of the range of activities and considerations that go into curating the show. I was aware of the aesthetic aspect – placing objects in the room – as well as the theoretical component of constructing the narrative of the exhibition, but Quiddity was a great way to become familiar with the raft of other elements of curation. These stretched from the public and education programs, to financial and bureaucratic constraints, to the actual install process and the way the blank slate of the gallery is physically transformed into an exhibition.
Project management is a big part of exhibition development and it was great to get an insight into ways you can coordinate the timeframes and diversity of processes, some very big and some very small, that go into staging an exhibition like this.
Quiddity was also a crash course in collection management – I learned a lot about the technical requirements of artworks in terms of condition maintenance, preservation and exhibition conditions. I’ve got a lot more confidence now in handling art objects, which will serve me well in a future in the arts sector.
Studying curatorial theory could never fully prepare you for doing all the work of curating a show within the constraints of time and budget and personal and institutional politics. That’s why it was so great to experience these processes and learn through doing.
How did it feel to have your show open to the public?
The curator has such a creative and dramatic role in shaping how people interact with an artist’s work. It was interesting and sometimes surprising to see how people responded to the exhibition and how they were influenced by the curatorial choices we collaborated on as a team.
How has the Arts Management course improved your career prospects?
Thanks to the Arts Management course I have enhanced confidence to talk about art, and a greater understanding of the systems, processes and institutions that exist around art and culture in Australia. I’m keen to work within an established arts organisation, big or small, but following some of the practical experience gained through Quiddity and other internships I also feel I have the capacity to work with artists to manage establishing and emerging arts projects outside institutional structures.