Museum Makers: Josie Dick, Barbican Guildhall

  • 30 May 2019

Josie Dick is a Creative Learning Curator for Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning. Here she describes her passion for arts education, reveals why post-it notes are crucial and gives an insight into participation opportunities surrounding the new Lee Krasner: Living Colour exhibition.

Josie Dick with Lee Krasner's Bald Eagle (1955) Lee Krasner: Living Colour, Barbican Art Gallery © Jemima Yong

Josie Dick with Lee Krasner's Bald Eagle (1955) Lee Krasner: Living Colour, Barbican Art Gallery

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© Jemima Yong

I am part of a team who help engage people further with all art forms. My role as Creative Learning Curator in Visual & Cross-Arts is different every day. I plan and create a public programme for a range of different audiences to engage with Barbican’s Art Gallery exhibitions, and I work within a team of theatre, poetry, film and music specialists to design new cross-arts programmes that take place within the Barbican as well as in and around East London.

Whilst at university, I became very interested in how the audience can understand art through participation and engagement. I did 2 internships, one in a small studio gallery, and one at Tate Modern and I realised that I had a passion for audience engagement and arts education. My first job was actually in the Barbican Art Gallery team alongside completing arts-education freelance project work at spaces like Bow Arts. I then left the Barbican and went on to work full-time in gallery education and creative learning, before returning, 6 years later, to my dream job here as a Creative Learning Curator.

Interviews make me very nervous. I was so excited to be given the opportunity and really wanted to share my passion and enthusiasm for creative learning. To prepare for the interview, I thought long and hard about how I could bring my expertise and knowledge to the role. Having worked in gallery settings, a theatre and a university, I knew I had to give lots of examples of how my varied experience could fit the role. Because I was so pleased to be back at the Barbican after so long, above all I wanted the interview panel to see how much I had loved working there before.

Sometimes there are lots (and lots) of meetings. Working in a creative team means ideas need to be shared and discussed. I can often spend the morning at my desk, managing budgets, arranging marketing plans and answering emails. I could then be visiting and meeting with a partner artist, like Headway East or in the gallery planning workshops and chatting with the Art Gallery Curatorial team. When it gets very busy, I could be with school groups in the gallery or running public events in the centre.

Being communicative and open with all types of people can help form true collaboration. Working together is the most important thing to me. Whether this be working with a charity, a child from a school, an artist or a young person with special educational needs; conversation and support for each other will make the outcome brilliant.

Having empathy is so important. Understanding another person’s story and experience can help create a dialogue which, in my experience, always leads to exciting art-making, skill-sharing and builds a lifelong relationship for making even better things happen in the future.

I write everything down and am a very visual person. I am lost without a pen and paper. Using a computer to type notes doesn’t work very well for me and I would struggle with my ideas if I didn’t have a pen in my hand. My notes are usually fairly illegible and always include long arrows and shapes. I refer back to my writings to figure out what I need to do next and what needs to go on my to-do list.

I’m a post-it fiend. Often my longer notes become single words that get dotted around my desk for inspiration, reminders or triggers for something often only I know the meaning of.

Ask someone who you look up to or are inspired by to go for a coffee. Chatting over a hot drink, sharing ideas and knowledge can lead to a great connection being formed. If you want to know more about a role, it really helps to meet someone who is doing it or something similar. Try to swallow your pride and just go for it. This is what I did many years ago with my predecessor, and now I am in the role that this person was in at the time.

Perseverance and passion always pay off. Continue to develop your ideas, knowledge and skills and get to know lots of different types of people, as this is at the core of working in creative learning.

At times of political and social uncertainty, making, talking and collaborating with each other is essential. Art is very powerful and the act of making together has beneficial qualities like nothing else. The future is unknown, but we can be sure that if we communicate and create conversation about what is important to us, only good things will emerge.

The future is exciting. As part of the Lee Krasner: Living Colour exhibition, which opens this week, we are planning lots of brilliant workshops and opportunities for young people, families, schools and teachers. A highlight of the programme will be a centre-wide free and public event for the whole family to learn and engage with all things Krasner. We are also running a week-long cross-arts intensive for 11-14 year olds during the summer holidays in collaboration with Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Lee Krasner: Living Colour opens today at the Barbican Art Gallery and runs until 1 September, 50% off with National Art Pass. The exhibition is supported by a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant from Art Fund.


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