Day one

When stepping in to the grandeur of the cathedral, you can't help but be overwhelmed by its breath-taking beauty. The imposing presence of this architectural marvel is a testament to the brilliance of centuries ago. It silences any other thoughts that may be racing through your mind as you're gazing in a place that has witnessed centuries unfold. Even though our visit to the cathedral was limited to just a few hours, this was my opportunity to explore the place and wonder how this week would unfold. The cathedral holds a special sentiment for me as it was the venue for my university graduation, it’s a place where I’ve created some remarkable memories. 

Our main space for storing work temporarily was the undercroft, a location that was formally utilised as a monastic refectory cellar, but today has been transformed into a vast, expansive space where we could comfortably accommodate all the school’s work. 

Amidst the waiting for the artwork to arrive, I found myself surrounded by sounds of nature and the soothing melodies of a saxophone lesson taking place across the square. As I was waiting to greet and guide the teachers down to the holding space, the white boards had arrived and were being set up. Although we had noticed that there was a shortage on the amount that we had received, this was resolved by organising another order to come in a few days. Whilst the boards were being assembled, Rich and I found ourselves discussing previous exhibitions and planning about how this year’s exhibit would pan out.

Day Two

Day two was focused on the crucial task of organisation and discussions about how we could assort certain pieces where. As the day progressed, teachers from various schools were continually dropping off their students’ work and my primary responsibility was to guide them down to the undercroft, a task I undertook with great care. Seeing all the children’s wonderful creations that were bursting with depictions of nature and the beauty it radiates. 

In the undercroft, each piece of work was methodically placed next to its designated label. I made sure to check each school off the list, ensuring that no entry was missed. As we navigated through the day, it became apparent that we had a few large installations. Some were imaginative representations of trees, crafted from construction paper and ceramics. Others were creative depictions of clouds and detailed portrayals of earth.

What struck us almost immediately within receiving the work, it was clear that there were common themes running throughout the pieces, amazingly despite all the schools not knowing what the other schools would produce. most frequent themes we identified were those of space, ocean life, nature and an interesting focus on photography and architecture. The recognition of these themes provided us with valuable insight and gave us an initial idea of how we could potentially piece certain items together, thereby kick-starting the process of curating. This would help to create a more cohesive visual journey for those viewing the exhibition.

Day Three

Day three was about careful logistics and thoughtful curation. The day's primary task was to transport all the collected artwork into the cloisters of the cathedral, a hallowed space that promised to provide a stunning backdrop for the children's creations. I made sure to handle each piece of art with the utmost care, understanding the importance of preserving these works. Each item had its own unique qualities, and it was essential to ensure they remained intact throughout the transportation process.

Once all the pieces had found their temporary home within the cloisters, the real work began. We methodically moved through the space with the themes we had identified earlier. We started to collect and organise the items into these categories, a task that required both a discerning eye and a keen understanding of the common threads that ran through the artworks. Some pieces were grouped together based on their colour schemes, others by their size, or through more obvious linking themes. It was an intricate, a balancing act of maintaining consistency while also celebrating the individuality of each piece.

It's worth mentioning that not all works had to directly link to one another. However, we aimed to create a cohesive and visually pleasing journey for those who would come to admire them. Initially, the sheer volume of artwork was intimidating. But we discovered that breaking down the workload into smaller, more manageable sections made the process feel less overwhelming. With a team of three, we managed to navigate this challenge effectively.

As we delved deeper into arranging the artworks, I found myself increasingly drawn to certain pieces. A notable mention was the ceramic sculptures. Their delicate and intricate details were captivating, and they sparked thoughts about how best to display them. The craftsmanship they represented deserved nothing less than a thoughtful and impactful display approach.

Day Four

On the fourth day of preparations, we found ourselves immersed in a detailed discussion about the use of mount boards for the different pieces of artwork. The question was whether to use mount boards at all or allow the pieces to stand alone in their bold individuality. The decision was requiring a creative approach and a keen eye for aesthetic.

Our first collective task was creating the 'space' themed board, a project that saw us experimenting with a unique combination of black, red, and blue mount boards. The aim was to simulate a galaxy-like effect, a deep, expansive space that would serve as a fitting background for the celestial-themed works. The combination was chosen with the intention of drawing the viewer's eye directly towards the main painting positioned at the centre of the board. As we assembled the board, we agreed upon an idea to enhance the visual effect - cut-out stars. These would be scattered around on the board, adding an extra layer of depth and a touch of playfulness to the display.

While Rich and Steve were busy with their tasks, I was assigned to assemble a model ocean scene. Initially, I struggled due to a lack of clear direction from the school as only a limited amount of the pieces were numbered. It was a meticulous process as I had to tie and hang each character individually. Despite the challenge, I persevered and was very pleased with the result.

Day Five 

On the fifth day, we concentrated on finishing the remaining tasks, mindful of the approaching deadline. While Rich and Steve continued to hang wall art and mount other works, I started planning the table displays. The ceramics we received continued to impress me, and I wanted to exhibit them effectively. We had a collection of unique ceramic monsters, each with their own characteristics. My aim was to create the impression of these creatures assembled haphazardly, mirroring their chaotic nature. Additionally, a group of five ceramics showcasing various underwater creatures entwined in what looked like shipwrecked rope. This piece warranted a prominent display for maximum visibility. I intended to utilize a table space and elevate a portion of the ceramics for an enhanced visual display. By positioning a plinth horizontally, I accomplished the initial vision I had for this work.

Day Six

Today, we knew the end was in sight and got promptly to work!

Whilst Rich and Steve were mounting the final pieces of work on the remainder of the vertical boards, I had been mounting the horizontal boards that were placed in the window sections of the cloisters. I enjoyed this as I had a lot of creative freedom to position the artwork how I wanted and got to grips with using a staple gun and certain measurement techniques. I wanted to think creatively and logistically when placing each piece, so I played around with different sized pieces and different hanging types. For example, going for a saloon type display would give the overall look a more visually interesting appearance rather than a normal hanging composition. 

When finishing that task, I got started on stapling appropriate artwork to the plinths, we found that the zine type work that could be unfolded complimented the space the most as it draped nicely over the plinth. Doing a final walk around the exhibition space, we could see the final product coming together and with the combination of the banner, sign and labels, we were feeling very optimistic.

Day Seven

Today was the final day to perfect the last details, and we were on schedule. My initial task involved repairing ceramics that had been damaged in transit by using super glue, taking care not to cause further harm. Once completed, we started collectively labelling each school's work.

Staying organised was essential for completing this task quickly and efficiently. We aimed to finish as soon as possible due to a wedding taking place in the hall. So to minimise prolonging this task, I prepared labels for the next set of work while Rich and Steve levelled and stapled the current ones. This system proved effective. Walking around the exhibition throughout the final day was surreal as I had never taken part in the curation of an exhibition to this extent and size. I made sure to take photos of all our hard work and place any remaining bits we may need in the future safely behind the boards, out of sight.

Summarising the Experience

Firstly, I want to thank Severn Arts for this amazing opportunity. I'm truly grateful. A huge thank you also goes to Rich and Steve for their help, for letting me assist them with the curation of this exhibition. This was the ideal experience to deepen my understanding of curation and will aid me in pursuing my dream of curating my own exhibition.

I would enthusiastically recommend this experience to any young, budding creatives who are eager to make a significant breakthrough in the competitive art industry. The opportunities and insights can serve as a powerful stepping stone for anyone looking to establish themselves within the realm of art.

What I Learned
  • I have gained confidence in displaying and mounting works, regardless of their theme, colour, or context. I can make clear distinctions to create a cohesive display.
  • Keeping a notebook with me allowed me to stay organised and helped me express my ideas better.
  • Being clear and concise with your vision will help the final product come together.
  • Experiment with presenting things in different ways, it may surprise you what works and what doesn't.
  • Being organised is the vital to execute a project of this size, especially working alongside others.
Advice to the Future Emerging Curator
  • Always view your exhibition from a distance (e.g., from down the walkway) to effectively evaluate colour coordination and composition.
  • Be considerate of the public using the cathedral, as well as any services. Where possible, stay along the edges to allow passers-by to move through.
  • Organization is crucial! Always keep a notebook and pen handy for jotting down ideas or reminders. Also don't forget to note which works belong to which schools, as it's easy to lose track during the process.
  • Since this role is physically demanding, ensure you wear comfortable clothes and footwear. You'll frequently move back and forth to fetch mount boards and other necessities.
  • Be forthright with expressing your ideas! whether they can be executed or not. It can be daunting, especially with the volume of work that gets accumulated, but having creative discussions leads to more creative ideas!