Five Minutes With... / Hung Out To Dry / UQ Community

Students help shape UQ Art Museum’s public programs

UQ Art History students and Art Museum volunteers Alice-Anne Psaltis and Nicholas Smith have done a wonderful job of keeping Public Programs ticking along while Curator of Public Programs Gillian Ridsdale has been on long-service leave. We talked to them about their experience and perspective on this important part of UQ Art Museum programming and engagement.

Alice-Anne Psaltis (A) Bachelor of Arts – Honours in Art History (during 2015)
Alice-Anne joined UQ Art Museum in February 2014 as a museum attendant, before volunteering with the Curatorial team from mid-2014. Since February 2015, she has been working as a Public Programs Assistant.

After graduating I hope to…travel overseas for an internship or study in Europe.

Nicholas W Smith (N) Bachelor of Arts, extended major in Art History, minors in Writing, Philosophy and Psychology
Nicholas began volunteering in Collection Management at UQ Art Museum during his first semester at university in 2012, and has since worked as a front-of-house casual, with Collections and Registration on special projects, and as a volunteer in the Curatorial and Advancement areas. During February and March 2015, he has taken on the role of Public Programs Assistant.

After graduating I hope to…find my way in the world. I have plans to undertake further study overseas before coming back to Australia to use what I’ve learnt to contribute to developing art museums here. Ultimately, I’d like to take on a leadership role in an art museum.

What’s your perspective on the role of Public Programs in a university art museum?
A: It’s about creating educational programs that bring students, staff, and the broader community together to interact and engage with artworks, exhibitions and the museum space in innovative and informative ways.

N: Each exhibition has a story to tell and public programs help tell that story. Engaging with a variety of stakeholders is critical – we have a duty to the students and staff on campus, as well as engaging the wider community.

What are some of the important things you’ve learned doing this job?
A: It can be challenging to transform an idea into a working event or program. Often something may appear easy to execute, but it involves a lot more organisation and planning than first anticipated. During this process I’ve come to realise the importance of communication, especially as public programs often involve many different parties with differing ideas.

N: I’ve learnt how crucial public programs are to an exhibition. Public programs are key to engaging different groups of people, giving a deeper insight and understanding of the artist’s work, and introducing new people to the wonderful world of art.

What are some of the things you’ve been working on as Public Program Assistants?
A: A number of student-focussed programs including Meet the Museum, College Night @ UQAM for students living at UQ’s residential colleges and Oh the places you will go! – a panel discussion to advise students of Art History and Museum Studies on career possibilities in the visual arts. I’ve also been helping with existing public programs for the Hung out to dry exhibition and opening events for the Alumni Friends of UQ Collection Study Room.

N: Engaging the UQ community through a range of educational public programs. For the Peter Hennessey exhibition we’ve been working on artist and academic talks, a film program, and we’re exploring further ways for the audience to engage with the artist.

What’s been the highlight of your time doing this work?
A: The experience of organising an event from start to finish has been rewarding and I’ve also enjoyed working closely with other staff members at the Art Museum. It’s been a great opportunity to gain experience in a variety of different areas, and broaden my knowledge of art and art museums.

N: The experience of working alongside such respected professionals. It’s because of my time at UQ Art Museum that I’ve been accepted into the internship program at The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. later this year. Without the work experience to complement my studies, I’d be just another Art History graduate. Plus, I love the social aspects of the job. I get to meet and work collaboratively with like-minded people, and spend my time surrounded by amazing works of art.

What do you love about UQ Art Museum?
A: I love that there’s an art museum on campus where students can see exhibitions! Also, I love the UQ Art Museum’s willingness to give students opportunities to gain experience working and volunteering.

N: I love the size of the team that works here. Not many institutions would have you saying hello to the install crew and the Director in the same day.

For students new to UQ who may never have been to the Art Museum before, why should they come inside?
A: If they come through the doors, they may discover an interest in art that they never thought they had! If not, at least they can relax in the air-conditioning, reading a catalogue on comfortable chairs, or talking to friends.

N: Even if you don’t have a particular interest in art, the building is pretty fantastic. It’s great to see students socialising in the foyer and enjoying the quiet spaces. The air conditioning is pretty sweet, too.

Interested in joining our public program? Why not come along to a discussion on Wednesday 29 April at 12.00pm with Hung out to dry creative consortium Drs Allison Holland, Naomi Stead and Kelly Greenop, along with exhibiting artists Mari Hirata and Chris Bennie. More

Alice-Anne Psaltis and Nicholas Smith Photo: Kaylene Biggs

Alice-Anne Psaltis and Nicholas Smith
Photo: Kaylene Biggs