Hannah Gaunt is the newly appointed education officer at the Grundy Art Gallery. I met up with her to find out who she is and what we can expect:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Milton Keynes, home of the concrete cows and roundabouts. My parents moved there from the north west in the late 1970s, after being taken in by the national marketing campaign for a new utopian ‘City of Dreams’. My father hails from Stockport and had a very tough upbringing, though you wouldn’t know it to meet him. He is the creative life-blood of the family. I grew up in a house that was decorated in every imaginable way, from rag-rolled walls, to hand-made furniture and mini-murals. I think growing up in an environment so saturated with artistic output has directly affected the value I now place on the arts, personally and professionally. I have my own artistic practice, which primarily focuses on performance, drawing and sculpture. Finding the time to knuckle down and develop artwork when working full-time is difficult, but I see my professional career as an extension of my art practice in many ways.
What did you do before moving to Blackpool?
I graduated in 2010 from Birmingham School of Art and went back to Milton Keynes to work at MK Gallery, a contemporary art space in the town centre. It was there that I formed my interest in gallery education and became involved in professional national organisations such as the Cultural Learning Alliance and the National Association for Gallery Education. I also worked on Arts and Health projects during this time and so have a keen interest in the benefits of arts engagement from a therapeutic and well-being perspective too.
What is your role at Grundy? Describe a typical day.
As education officer, my role is to shape educational programmes and projects for a wide range of audiences. It could be said that many people see galleries and museums as static, unfriendly spaces that bear no relevance to the reality of their own lives. My job is to activate those spaces so that children, young people and adults from all corners of the community feel enriched and engaged by the exhibitions and opportunities we offer. My average day revolves around programming and forward planning. I am constantly looking for projects and ideas to develop and so, along with answering an endless stream of emails, my day is broken up by meetings with artists, organisations and teachers whom I work alongside to explore new ideas.
At the moment Grundy Art Gallery is refreshing the pool of associate artist educators that we work with to deliver education and engagement projects. We are open to applications from artists working across all art forms and approaches, such as dance and creative writing as well as the visual arts, as these offer great alternative ways of interpreting and exploring our exhibitions with educational groups.
As someone new to Blackpool, can you sum it up in five words?
Vibrant, friendly, ambitious, diverse, windy.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I worked in a cinema one summer whilst I was studying and have had an insatiable appetite for popcorn ever since. I am very particular though, it has to be savoury, preferably butter-flavoured, but never, ever sweet. Sometimes I go to the cinema just to eat the popcorn, I don’t really care which film I see!
What are you looking forward to at Grundy this year?
I am looking forward to shaping new educational projects and programme strands over the coming months. I think a particular highlight this year will be delivering the annual ‘Under The Town’ Arts Award programme for young people with the team in Blackpool Council’s Arts Service as there has been a great collaborative effort to pull that together ready for the launch in April.
The exhibitions programme over the next year looks fantastic, in particular I am excited about our autumn show, Light Works, which will tie in to the Blackpool Illuminations by bringing together modern and contemporary artists who have used the concept of light in their work. We should be announcing more about that soon, so do keep your eyes peeled.
You can find more about the Grundy Art Gallery’s education programme on their website.
See & Do is Grundy Art Gallery and Blackpool Libraries’ joint cultural activity for 6-12 year olds, providing workshops with artists and other creative people on the last Saturday of every month.
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