How a Student Opportunities grant helped Chatsworth House to engage wider audiences with their exhibition programme
Supported by a Student Opportunities grant from Art Fund, Chatsworth House provided paid opportunities for seven students recruited from the Student Art Pass network to engage visitors with their large-scale exhibition, Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man.
This hands-on experience helped the students to develop their skills, knowledge and confidence, while enhancing Chatsworth House’s engagement with audiences, enabling them to centre young people’s voices in their programme.
About the project
As a registered charity, Chatsworth House Trust’s principal purpose is the long-term preservation of the house, garden, woodlands and park for the benefit of everyone, and the care of the art collection owned by the charity and those works on the visitor route on loan from the Devonshire art collection.
Chatsworth's summer 2022 exhibition, Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man, featured 12 monumental sculptures. Eight had been part of the famous Burning Man arts festival held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert; three were made at Chatsworth with help from local school children and community groups; and one was made onsite.
Chatsworth hired seven students for a four-month period to provide on-the-ground interpretation and assistance for visitors, helping them to meaningfully engage with the installations.
In preparation for their roles, the students participated in a tailored training programme to equip them with relevant communication skills and enable them to gain experience from the established Chatsworth team and the exhibiting Burning Man artists.
As part of the training programme, the students also received inductions on health and safety, safeguarding, pedagogy, group management and professionalism. At the beginning, mid-way and end, every student met the Head of Learning and Engagement to identify personal objectives, training needs and core skills to ensure they were progressing during their employment.
Working collaboratively with young people was a great opportunity for us – we learned a lot from the students, and our visitors got so much more in-depth engagement when in the welcome hub or out in the park.
In a nutshell
This opportunity enabled students to work at Chatsworth, a place many of them would not have previously considered for work or to visit, and proved beneficial for both Chatsworth and the students.
The students received invaluable work experience, with every student reporting that the opportunity increased their skills and confidence; and they spent 75% of their time engaging audiences with the exhibition, ensuring that visitors meaningfully engaged with Chatsworth's programme.
It turned out that the students were keen to contribute to the exhibition programme much more than had initially been anticipated, and they devised creative events which were successful in reaching a wider audience than originally planned. In an evaluation form, Chatsworth expressed that the voices and ideas of young people ultimately enriched the outcomes of the Radical Horizons project overall.
Students brought in a range of skills and areas of confidence and supported each other. For example, one student had previously worked with children with special educational needs and/or disabilities; another student had a clear grasp of safeguarding practices. The skills they brought enabled them to support Chatsworth’s wider team of Young Ambassadors.
Students also had a strong desire to work together and often wanted to work shifts with their peers, so being flexible with shift structure was important in enabling this.
I wanted to express my thanks to all the team for giving me the chance to partake in this amazing opportunity; they have been a pleasure to work with and have always lent an ear to help when it came to developing my own skills in engagement.
Top four takeaways
Host a recruitment day
Implement a buddy system
Amplify young people’s voices
Learn from each other
Benefits and outcomes for the museum and students
This paid opportunity for students allowed Chatsworth House to transform how the organisation includes young people’s voices in its activities, and to include young people in a new type of visitor experience at Chatsworth.
The students constructed elements of the project with the Learning and Engagement team, providing creative suggestions and solutions. They assisted with the delivery of public programme events such as Family Art in the Park, engaging even more audiences than initially anticipated by the project team. They also requested to create art workshops for the public, which had not been foreseen in the planning of the roles. This resulted in their overall contribution being more widely embedded across various strands of the Radical Horizons public programme than originally predicted.
The students reported that this opportunity significantly increased their confidence in working with the public, as it allowed them to develop their communication skills and professionalism. They brought a diverse skillset and range of knowledge with them, which enabled them to thrive in certain areas and create a team that could learn from one another.
For Chatsworth House, this opportunity enabled them to deliver a highly engaging exhibition and public programme, which reached a wider range of people than initially anticipated. It also allowed them to include young people’s voices at the centre, bringing fresh perspectives and creative ideas into the mix.