‘I felt like I won a Nobel prize!!’

The Void Gallery, Derry~Londonderry is an artist run, internationally significant gallery. Alongside its international exhibition programme the Void has strong local links, and is a gallery very much at the heart of the local community.

When looking at their Facebook page earlier this week I came across these letters of Thanks:

letter of thanks courtesy of the Void Facebook page

The letters provide a valuable insight into what makes a brilliant visitor experience. They also show what visitors (especially children) remember about their gallery visit. Whilst probably structured by a teacher, each letter discusses three areas of the visit with great enthusiasm and individual character.

1. VIEWING: The art in the gallery 

‘I remember looking at the most magnificent picture in the world’

‘The one I like was about the old run down building…yet it was so plain…it told a fascinating story’

‘The exhibitions are breathtaking… they are that good’

2. ENGAGING: Seeing their art on display in ‘a real gallery

‘I saw my picture on the wall I literally went ecstatic. I felt like I won a Nobel Prize’

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in and saw my own classes pictures and poems stuck up on the wall’

‘I was so proud of myself it was like a life long dream come true’

3. REFLECTING:  With juice and biscuits to finish 

‘The juice was Orange and the biscuits were cookies’

‘Even though I loved the tour I looked forward to the end because the staff gave us orange juice and cookies’

The children remembered in equal portions the art, their art and the juice.

These three elements created an engaging and memorable gallery experience that lead one child to say

‘I’m just literally telling you, this place would blow your socks off’

To see the rest of these letters, or to follow the work of the Void head over to their Facebook Page.

Laughing at the museum

Museums are full of rules. No photography, no eating, no running, no touching the works. ‘No’ features a lot in museum signage, but the Art Museum Tennis Palace in Helsinki takes a simple approach to demystifying all these rules.

In a simple leaflet called ‘why’

What I particularly love about this leaflet, is that after explaining all the things you can’t do. It ends with a positive direction  and tells visitors ‘Speaking is allowed!’ it even says that it is not even necessary to whisper…

I visited the Tennis Palace last month and I was delighted to find that the great Interpretation continued throughout the exhibition, they had a great book shop and loads of comfy seats. All in this is one of the friendliest, most engaging small museums that I have been to in a while.

As my dad always says the simple ideas are the best!

Volunteering & lots of tea are a perfect combination!

Photo courtesy of 'Dyanna' on Flickr

People volunteer for lots of different reasons from wanting to gain experience to making new friends, but walking into any new situation can be scary. Putting on the kettle is a simple way to put new volunteers at ease.

As an arts management student I volunteered in loads of arts organisations from festivals to galleries and theaters. The places I stuck with where the ones that made me a cup of tea when I walked in the door. Its important that you get to know your volunteers, after all if you don’t have time to invest in them, they will quickly lose their desire to invest their precious time in you. Volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds you might have a retired teacher, or trainee doctor helping out at your festival but you’ll never know this if you simply ask volunteers for their contact details and a reference.

Just last week I got a lovely new ‘recruiting and managing volunteers’ OCN qualification in the post. The 2 day training course which I attended earlier in the year made me realise that managing volunteers requires more than simply policy, reference checking and progress reviews. The training course covered all the ‘official’ stuff but equally important is simply being nice, friendly, interested and approachable. From my experience the being nice part of managing volunteers is all to often over looked.

Volunteers don’t want to spend all day in a cupboard stuffing envelopes, but get a couple of volunteers together, put the radio on and provide some cupcakes and a mundane task suddenly becomes a sociable one.

I guess the recipe to creating a successful volunteer programme is simple: Think before you ask, would I do this for free? Would I enjoy doing this? What would I get out of this task if I was volunteering? These might seem like simple questions but in the heat of the moment, in the madness of a festival they are often over looked.

If you take the time to make volunteers feel welcome they will quickly become loyal advocates, if you don’t they will quickly tell their friends and family about their negative experience. Your volunteers are important, they are loyal and motivated members of the community, don’t underestimate their value!